Fresh controversy has emerged in the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal after the publication of transcripts from the BBC’s own investigation into the famed TV host’s alleged predatory behavior. The broadcaster has faced accusations of hushing up suspicions regarding their long-time employee and airing glowing tributes upon his death despite these concerns.
Now the full testimony of senior figures within the organization has been made available to the public, albeit with certain sections — about3% of the total — redacted ostensibly for “legal reasons.” The Pollard Inquiry deemed the BBC’s decision to drop a probe by its flagship Newsnight investigative journalism program into abuses perpetrated by Savile as “flawed.”
The newly released documents indicate how deep suspicions about Savile’s conduct ran within the organization. “There was a lot of speculation … whether his sexual life was not quite right,” Jan Younghusband, the BBC’s head of music and obituaries, told the inquiry. “I think, to be honest, I thought maybe he was into boys, I don’t know, but it is the entertainment industry where there is a lot of rumor and gossip.” Veteran Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman told the Pollard Inquiry that rumors about Savile’s sexual proclivities were “common gossip” at the BBC, adding, “I don’t know whether it was girls or boys, but I have no evidence of it, and I never saw anything that made me take it more seriously.”
Victims’ groups have been quick to accuse the corporation of masking certain testimony to prevent further embarrassment.“We are concerned about the redactions,” said Liz Dux, a lawyer representing more than 60 supposed victims of Savile. “The BBC did promise openness and transparency and that’s what worries the victims … the whole Savile affair occurred because of this lack of transparency and, therefore, for there to be any redactions does cause concern.”
Savile, a household name in the U.K. who received a now-revoked knighthood for his charitable works, died in 2011 at the age of 84. A catalogue of allegations have since emerged about sordid acts committed against children and young people — according to one report, he’s accused of committing 214 sexual crimes, including 34 rapes, between 1955 until 2009.
As a shocked British public became more aware of the extent of his heinous crimes, the focus has shifted towards the BBC, and to what extent management was aware of his actions or even complicit in the scandal. Several former friends and associates of Savile, some of whom worked alongside him during his decades at the broadcaster, have since been arrested or questioned by police.
The release of censored transcripts late last week has also been fiercely criticized by British media, including a in scathing editorial in The Daily Mail that accuses the BBC of being “determined to cover up its own wrongdoing and carry on as if nothing has happened.” Specific redactions have also raised eyebrows: in one notable section, Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s director of global news, begins: “It is no secret that…” with whatever he subsequently spells out obscured by lines of black ink.
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While no new staggering revelations of Savile’s misbehavior have come to light in the BBC documents, a picture of an organization riven by internal conflicts has led to calls for reform. “It demonstrates the extent of unhappiness within the BBC structure, the frustration at the bureaucratic nature of the management, and the generally poor state of morale,” John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons culture and media committee, was quoted by The New York Times as saying in a television interview.
Acting BBC Director-General Tim Davie denied that any redactions were made to protect the reputation of the broadcaster, insisting that the remaining content still made “uncomfortable” reading. “This is not a situation in which the BBC can look at this and say ‘they’ve protected their reputation,’” he told BBC News. “This has been a tough time for the BBC and is a tough report to read.”