Paxman denies he is quitting Newsnight over abuse fiasco

Nov 19, 2012

Presenter will return to crisis-hit show this week; Lord McAlpine’s lawyers set to hit ITV hard

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JEREMY PAXMAN has denied rumours he is leaving crisis-hit Newsnight after becoming "deeply disillusioned". 

Newsnight has been at the centre of the child abuse storm that has hit the BBC. First, it was accused of spiking a well-sourced expose about sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by Jimmy Savile; then it was forced to issue an apology and pay £185,000 to Lord McAlpine for running a poorly sourced story linking him to a paedophile ring – although the Tory peer was not named.

It was reported over the weekend that Paxman, who has been in the US filming a documentary, would not be returning to Newsnight, but he told The Daily Telegraph yesterday: "I have been away filming, but I will definitely be there on Wednesday."

The Daily Mail notes that Paxman has refused to confirm whether he would remain at Newsnight in the long term.

Among other developments:

Tim Davie, who was made acting Director-General of the BBC in the wake of George Entwistle’s departure, has asked BBC staff to come forward if they can help the police investigation into Jimmy Savile’s alleged sexual abuses. In a letter obtained by ITV News, he wrote: "If you have an allegation about inappropriate behaviour on BBC premises, or by BBC presenters or other staff, you can inform the BBC Investigation Unit in confidence."

It is “quite clear” that ITV will have to pay significantly more in libel damages to Lord McAlpine than did the BBC, a spokesman for the Tory peer has told The Times. McAlpine’s claim against ITV relates to an on-air incident when This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield handed David Cameron a piece of paper bearing a list of alleged child abusers. McAlpine’s spokesman said the BBC’s libel payout was restricted because of its status as a public service broadcaster funded by the taxpayer. The same does not apply to ITV. "This was also done in broad daylight in a premeditated way in front of the Prime Minister," said the spokesman, who added that it was this incident that prompted McAlpine to issue his public statement saying he had been named as an abuser, but that the allegations were not true.

Lord McAlpine’s lawyers have warned that a "quite exceptional" number of people face legal action for posting messages on Twitter that defamed the Tory peer, according to The Times. They have identified 1,000 original tweets and 9,000 retweets. If these people take the initiative and apologise to McAlpine, most of them will simply be asked to pay between £5 and £100 to a children’s charity.

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