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Jimmy Savile

BBC Trust chief Chris Patten reaffirms autonomy amid Jimmy Savile scandal

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 4:44am

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten yesterday reaffirmed the broadcaster's independence after the British government told it to get a grip over the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal.

Patten was involved in a testy exchange of letters with Britain's culture minister, who expressed concern about the handling of the issue by the world's largest public broadcaster.

The BBC is under fire for scrapping an investigation into Savile on its current affairs Newsnight show last year.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said that "very real concerns are being raised about public trust and confidence in the BBC", which is funded by a licence paid by every British household that has a television or radio.

But Patten - the last British governor of Hong Kong before the handover to China in 1997 - retorted that the BBC took the allegations "seriously" and had set up two independent investigations into the scandal.

"You know how seriously the trust takes the allegations surrounding Jimmy Savile and the need to maintain public trust in the BBC," he said in his letter.

"I know that you will not want to give any impression that you are questioning the independence of the BBC."

The trust is responsible for holding the broadcaster, which is nicknamed "Auntie" in Britain, to account for how it meets its public duties as set out by a royal charter.

George Entwistle, the director general of the BBC, appeared before British lawmakers on Tuesday and said he regretted that the broadcaster had dropped the Newsnight investigation.