Mark Thompson, the legal letter, and the Savile investigation

Stewart Purvis, professor of television journalism at City University London (formerly of ITN and Ofcom) has been carefully tracking the detail around ex-BBC director-general Mark Thompson’s legal interaction with the Sunday Times, following the newspaper’s questions about the BBC’s handling and knowledge of the Jimmy Savile allegations. Purvis’ blog post – and Thompson’s subsequent reaction – has since been picked up by the New York Times, where Thompson recently began work as the company’s CEO.


Purvis’ first post on the topic [14 Nov] detailed a Sunday Times’ story by Miles Goslett* (£), which didn’t appear to have been followed up elsewhere by the media. It described how lawyers acting for Mark Thompson and Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, had responded to questions posed by the Sunday Times in August – they denied allegations about the handling of the Newsnight item and threatened legal action if they were printed. Purvis emphasised the significance of this story (the timings) in his post. Thompson’s reply to Purvis’ post was published here. Purvis has since summarised the resulting coverage here and here.

The Sunday Times’ latest story by Goslett, ‘Former DG feels heat over lawyers’ letter’ (£), reports:

Thompson … has told the Pollard inquiry he was not emailed a copy of the [legal] letter and does not recall being shown it.

Curiously, this fascinating story has received little interest beyond Purvis’ blog, the pages of the Sunday Times and US-based publications…

Purvis has remarked on this too and suggests that the fact that the Times’ story was behind a paywall might be significant.

However, that wouldn’t explain the continued lack of interest, now Purvis and US publications have made the details open-access…

It’s a “potentially explosive” story says the Telegraph’s Tom Chivers, but in his view, the New York Times’ could jazz up its headline a little: “Letter Raises Questions’? Seriously? That’s how you want to lead this? That’s your best shot?”

Further reading

*Goslett was the journalist who first (unsuccessfully) tried to interest Fleet Street in the  Newsnight/Savile story, before placing it in the Oldie in February 2012. The newspapers’ reluctance to run it is a topic for another blog post…

This entry was posted in blogging, broadcasting, defamation, journalism, media ethics, media law, newspapers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mark Thompson, the legal letter, and the Savile investigation

  1. Pingback: Our super, unpoliticised Great and Good | Eric Joyce MP

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