BBC’s ‘deferential culture’, ‘untouchable’ stars and ‘above the law’ managers blamed
By David Hencke, Alex Varley-Winter, Mark Watts and Tim Wood | 20 January 2016
Retired judge Dame Janet Smith condemns BBC culture over Sir Jimmy Savile’s paedophile activities at the broadcaster in her inquiry report leaked to Exaro.
In a searing indictment of the BBC, Smith criticises the corporation for a “very deferential culture”, its “untouchable” stars and “above the law” managers.
Her report outlines multiple rapes and indecent assaults on girls and boys, and incidents of “inappropriate sexual conduct” with teenagers above 16, all “in some way associated with the BBC”.
“Three of Savile’s victims were only nine years old.”
As Exaro prepared to publish the leak, the Smith review this afternoon announced that it would release the report “within six weeks”.
Many BBC employees told Smith’s “review” that they had heard about Savile’s predatory sexual conduct, but feared reporting concerns to managers. But Smith accepts a series of denials by senior figures that they were aware of Savile’s sexual misconduct.
Most of Savile’s rapes, attempted rapes and more serious sexual assaults took place in his flats or caravans, she says.
“However, I heard of incidents that took place in virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked. These included the BBC Television Theatre (in connection with Jim’ll Fix It), at Television Centre (in particular in connection with Top of the Pops), at Broadcasting House or Egton House (where he worked in connection with BBC Radio 1), Lime Grove studios and various provincial studios, including Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow.
“He would indulge in sexual touching while working on the set (of Top of the Pops or Jim’ll Fix It) and on at least one occasion, he was actually on camera. Savile would seize the opportunity for sexual contact even in public places such as corridors, staircases and canteens.”
The draft report seen by Exaro, running to more than 500 pages, was completed over a year ago. Smith distributed conclusions and criticisms from the draft to relevant individuals and to the BBC itself, seeking any further comment.
Exaro reported last September that Smith watered down her much-delayed report after receiving strong objections to many of her criticisms.
Smith responded by saying that she had not changed her report’s conclusions after receiving objections to her findings.
Exaro reveals today how Smith’s draft report:
- reveals how BBC employees were too afraid to report Savile to managers;
- says that BBC people fear blowing the whistle more than ever today;
- exposes a BBC culture where celebrities were treated with “kid gloves” and managers drank heavily;
- warns that “a predatory child abuser could be lurking undiscovered in the BBC even today.”
In that chapter, Smith writes: “Several witnesses described the BBC as very deferential.”
“My general impression is that most staff (other than those who had been in the higher echelons) felt that the management culture was too deferential and that some executives were ‘above the law’.”
“I have the clear impression that most people in the BBC held the talent in some awe and treated them deferentially; they appeared to have the ability to influence careers and were themselves untouchable. It would be a brave person indeed who would make a complaint against such a person.”
In four further packages of pieces today, Exaro makes a series of other revelations from Smith’s draft report, including devastating details of the sheer scale of awareness within the BBC of Savile’s activities, even if management was oblivious.
Smith points out that the honours committee advised Lady Thatcher, as prime minister, against recommending a knighthood for Savile because of public warning signs about the presenter, who died in 2011, even if the BBC failed to spot them. But the former Court of Appeal judge also questions why Thatcher persisted with proposing Savile for a knighthood.
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