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Savile Abuse Report Leak Stopped BBC Plan To Publish "After Charter Renewal", Says Editor

Exaro News published leaked findings from Dame Janet Smith's long-running inquiry into how the BBC handled allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile – and the news website's editor says the corporation was planning to wait until after this year's charter renewal before publishing it.

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The BBC was planning to delay the release of a report into the "predatory" sexual abuse of Jimmy Savile until after this year's charter renewal, according to the editor who published a leaked draft version.

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Jimmy Savile wearing his OBE medal after his investiture at Buckingham Palace in 1972.

A leaked draft of the report, written by Dame Janet Smith, was published by Exaro News on Wednesday night, six weeks ahead of its official publication date.

Smith was appointed in October 2012 to head an inquiry into the corporation's culture and practices during the time Savile was a BBC employee, from the mid-1960s to 2007. The draft report offers a damning indictment of the corporation's response to Savile's misconduct.

BBC managers were too afraid to challenge Savile's "predatory" behaviour due to a culture of caution and a fear of whistleblowing that has become "even worse" today, according to the report. The BBC insists this draft differs from the final version.

Exaro's editor-in-chief, Mark Watts, told BuzzFeed News official publication of the review was scheduled to follow the renewal of the BBC's royal charter. The charter, effectively the constitution of the BBC, will be rewritten after a government review of the corporation's purpose and funding.

The BBC strongly denied the allegation when it was first made in September 2015, and a spokesperson for the corporation told us it was "simply and utterly untrue".

@ExaroNews Here is our full statement, which Exaro have not included in this piece.

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The draft report said that while a BBC employee, Savile carried out 61 sexual assaults including four rapes.

After his death in 2011 it emerged that the entertainer had preyed on hundreds of victims of both sexes, taking advantage of his position as an entertainer, a charity fundraiser, and an ambassador for the city of Leeds.

The draft report also showed:

* BBC staff were too scared to report Savile's sexual advances, including women who were abused.

* The fear of whistleblowing at the BBC continues to this day and may be "even worse" now – Smith wrote that many BBC staff would only speak to her on condition of anonymity.

* BBC bosses were reluctant to challenge their leading stars. "The general perception of the witnesses I heard was that the talent was treated with kid gloves and never challenged," the report said.

Watts told BuzzFeed News the Smith review's reasons for delaying the report, that it would prejudice criminal investigations, "didn't hold up".

In May 2014, Smith's team said publication would be delayed so to avoid prejudicing ongoing criminal cases, such as that of presenter Stuart Hall, who was jailed for indecent assault.

Exaro said it found no evidence that the report would have prejudiced any other inquiries or criminal cases.

The Smith review announced that the findings would be released within six weeks on Wednesday afternoon, just hours before Exaro published the leaked report, because the Met police had withdrawn their concerns over potential prejudice towards investigations.

"The excuse they used for not publishing the report has now been exposed as extremely questionable, which was that it would prejudice ongoing investigations," said Watts.

"We published very large chunks of it that and there is nothing that would prejudice ongoing investigations. And that's been the case since May last year, when it was announced that the publication was delayed for that reason."

Smith's team had twice before – in August and October last year – made statements concerning "inaccurate press speculation" on the report's timing that said the only reason for the delay was the Met's concerns.

A government review is currently considering the entire "scope and purpose" of the corporation, with the possible introduction of different payment tiers for the licence fee, which is secured until at least 2020. A highly charged political debate on the issue is inevitable.

Watts also pointed out that when the report is released it will be presented to the BBC Trust, the corporation's ruling body, along with the BBC executive board's response to it – so now the board has a head start.

"In a sense the BBC board gets the chance to put in its retaliation first and give them a head start on trying to spin the damning findings away," he said.

"We haven't spun it, we've just reflected what it the report says, which is a devastating picture of the BBC."

The BBC's director general, Tony Hall, said the Savile episode was a "dark chapter in the history of the BBC" but cautioned against assuming the draft report would be identical to the final version.

Oli Scarff / Getty Images

BBC director general Lord Tony Hall arriving for his first day at work at Broadcasting House, 2013.

"The review has said that the copy leaked to the media is an early draft which has changed considerably, so while I am impatient to learn those lessons the responsible thing must be to act on the final report which we have not received," he said.

"The review expects the report to be published within six weeks and we hope it will be published as swiftly as possible."

The Smith review said it was "disappointed" by the publishing of the leak.

"That document is out of date and significant changes have been made to its contents and conclusions," it said. "The document should not have been made public and cannot be relied upon in any circumstances.

"The review will work with the BBC to arrange publication of its final Report as quickly as possible to ensure that accurate and responsible reporting can take place."

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

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