Savile Row
Not the tailoring outfit.
A man.
A media personality who graced (if that’s an appropriate word – which it isn’t) the screens of UK television on the BBC throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, as disc jockey, and eventual host of his own charity-based TV series.
Jimmy Savile.
Now, I’ve got to admit, straight out.
Growing up in the UK during that era, I never liked Jimmy Savile.
Something about him always struck me as, well. Off.
Seems my instincts were right.
Sir James Savile, KBE, to give him his full title (The Queen knighted this man, in 19-whenever-it-was, if you can believe it. Not the first time a knighthood has gone to a less than savory character. And not the last, I dare say. Sorry. I digress.) stands accused of abusing his position – and many, many of the underage girls who came into his orbit, in alleged acts of rape, and sexual assault.
Over 200 separate allegations, so far.
Spanning a period of four decades.
The word ‘serial’ doesn’t quite cover it.
Posthumous allegations, these, since Savile died last year, at the age of 84 (I’m sure there are many out there who will hope that he doesn’t RIP).
To make matters worse, senior officials at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) may have been aware of Savile’s behavior and – by alleged acts of omission or commission – stand accused of permitting it to continue.
Hence, the controversy. Or row, as the British might say.
Hear; Know EvilYesterday, BBC Director-General George Entwistle faced MPs at a House of Commons Select Committee hearing.
Mr Entwistle admitted that a ‘broad cultural problem’ within the BBC during the 60s and 70s had allowed Savile to get away with decades of abusing children.
He however noted that there was insufficient evidence to say whether abuse was endemic within the Corporation.
This notwithstanding, Entwistle revealed that the BBC was investigating up to 10 ‘serious allegations’ involving employees ‘over the whole period in question’. And assisting the police inquiries as to whether a paedophile ring operated at the Corporation.
The Newsnight DebacleMr Entwistle faced a barrage of criticism from MPs for his ‘extraordinary lack of curiosity’ over a documentary program Newsnight’s discovery last year that Savile was a suspected paedophile.
The show was canned, and TV tributes to the late DJ were broadcast instead.
George Entwistle was head of BBC Vision (the television arm of the network) at the time of the Newsnight probe’s mysterious cancellation.
He told the committee that Newsnight’s controversial probe into Savile’s alleged behavior should never have been ditched by TV bosses last year.
Mr Entwistle said there had been a ‘breakdown of communication’ between Newsnight reporters and the editor, Peter Rippon, and he did not feel ‘confident’ he could get an explanation over what happened from within the BBC.
Mr Entwistle told the committee that he had not personally spoken to any of those involved in preparing the Newsnight film.
He said he felt it was better to operate through the BBC ‘chain of command’, so that he could remain an impartial judge of any subsequent disciplinary case. He therefore left it to head of news Helen Boaden and deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell to deal directly with the program.
Mr Entwistle said Ms Boaden had spoken to the Newsnight team only briefly during the investigation.
Newsnight editor Peter Rippon stood down, as the furore over the ditched Savile investigation continued to gather pace yesterday.
Buck Passing?Sounds like it, doesn’t it?
The chairman of the BBC Trust (the network’s governing body) Lord Patton today promised a full and comprehensive inquiry, into the scandal.
Former Court of Appeal judge, Dame Janet Smith has been appointed to head one of the independent inquiries commissioned by the corporation as a result of the late presenter’s protracted sexual abuse.
She will look into the ‘culture and practices’ of the BBC during the years Savile was working for the corporation – a time in which he is thought to have abused dozens of people.
Dame Janet Smith said she will begin work on her inquiry into Jimmy Savile’s activities at the BBC as early as next week.
Cover-up, or no?Remains to be seen.
Let’s hope that, as the inquiry proceeds, the focus on the failings (or otherwise) of the BBC doesn’t eclipse the people who really matter, in this affair.
The victims of Savile’s (alleged) offences.
And their families.
Let’s spare a thought, for them.