BBC missed multiple opportunities to stop Savile abuse – report

Jimmy Savile © Paul Hackett
The BBC missed numerous opportunities to stop sexual abuse perpetrated by now-deceased DJ and television star Jimmy Savile, a report into his crimes has revealed.

Published on Thursday, The Dame Janet Smith Review criticized the broadcaster for letting the star continue to commit offenses with impunity. 

The former BBC presenter and charity figurehead died in 2011, but allegations of sexual abuse emerged after his death. By October 2012, complaints about Savile had been made to 13 different police forces across Britain.

The star is alleged to have sexually abused roughly 450 victims who came forward as part of Operation Yewtree, a police investigation into widespread abuse by Savile and other high-profile figures.

Sexual assaults took place at six hospitals and on BBC premises, with victims’ ages ranging from five to 75. Police described the abuse as being on an “unprecedented scale.”

The report found there had been “serious failings” at the BBC, which had neglected to stop Savile from sexually abusing 72 women on its premises.

Smith said the report should be “sorry reading” for the BBC, blaming a “macho culture” of sexism and an “atmosphere of fear” that kept employees silent on the issue.

She added that BBC staff were “more worried about reputation than the safety of children.”

BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said she was saddened by the results of the report.

I am saddened and appalled by the events recounted here and in a few moments I want to address how we will aim to ensure we never allow them to happen again," she said. 

But our primary thoughts must be with the victims – the survivors of the abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall. Today’s reports lay bare the full horror of what happened to them. Those experiences can never be erased.

“No one reading the reports can be in any doubt that the BBC failed them. It failed, not just them, but the public, its audiences and its staff.

“It turned a blind eye, where it should have shone a light. And it did not protect those who put their trust in it.”

On Thursday afternoon, Director General of the BBC Tony Hall apologized to the survivors of abuse, saying the broadcaster had “parted company” with DJ Tony Blackburn after his evidence given to the inquiry had been below standard.

He added that the BBC accepted all the findings and announced a review of child protection procedures.

“I accept conclusions and recommendations in full and equally important we have read, we have heard we are listening and we understand,"he said. 

“The importance of getting the culture right in our organisation is key.”