In answer to the question could Merion Jones have taken the story to Panorama I'd say yes.
Tom Giles editor of Panorama tells the inquiry he was currently using a Newsnight reporter on an hour long project, so the door was open at Panorama.
One of the testimonies released is very interesting. I'll search for it later, but get the general feeling is that Jones was dejected (I'm paraphrasing) when he knew the story wasn't being broadcast and didn't push it to be released, which is isn't a behaviour of an investigative journalist. Of course, MWT may already be working on the story by that time, but the general feeling I get is that not only not only Merion, but Peter Rippon, were pressured "from above" to stop the investigation and there was no way this story was going to be broadcast by the BBC. Of course, it is only a theory.
If you read Merion Jones account in the Pollard Inquiry, Mark Williams-Thomas put himself forward to be the reporter for the Newsnight feature but they already had Liz MacKean.
Looks like a lot was passed on from Merion to MW-T, it's even suggest someone who contacted Merion in Feb 2012 was passed on to MW-T.
Maybe Mark should share his RTS award with Merion Jones, Liz MacKean and Hannah Livingston the particularly the latter two who located and contacted various women.
I agree. Jones was also the one who got in contact with that first witness, Susan.