BBC chief grilled over Savile scandal

The BBC chief says allegations about decades of sexual abuse by its longtime TV host Jimmy Savile — and the broadcaster’s failure to stop him — constitute a “very grave’’ crisis for the venerable organisation.

Written by Agencies | London | Published: October 24, 2012 1:10:03 am

The BBC chief says allegations about decades of sexual abuse by its longtime TV host Jimmy Savile — and the broadcaster’s failure to stop him — constitute a “very grave’’ crisis for the venerable organisation.

Director-General George Entwistle told British lawmakers on Tuesday that it is too early to say whether sexual abuse was endemic within Britain’s publicly funded national broadcaster in previous decades. Entwistle said the BBC was probing historical allegations of sexual abuse or harassment against “between eight and 10’’ past and present employees,as it investigates whether Savile was at the heart of a wider paedophile ring within the corporation.

Entwistle’s testimony before the Culture,Media and Sport Select Committee comes a day after the BBC aired a powerful TV documentary about the corporation’s role in the expanding sex abuse scandal around Savile,who died a year ago at age 84.

“There is no question that what Jimmy Savile did and the way the BBC behaved … will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us,’’ Entwistle told the lawmakers. “This is a gravely serious matter and one cannot look back at it with anything other than horror.’’

Meanwhile,the BBC documentary on Monday night,which was watched by more than 5 million people,presented the unusual spectacle of BBC journalists grilling their own bosses about why the piece had been dropped.

The broadcast set out to explain why the Savile investigation was never televised. The answer remains murkier than ever — the BBC stopped short of accusing any of its bosses of a cover-up — but viewers were given harrowing testimony about the scale of the abuse,including allegations that girls and,in at least one case,a boy,were forced to have sex with Savile in his car,his camper van,or dingy dressing rooms on BBC premises.

The program was surreal in parts,not least because nearly all the children who surrounded Savile in archival footage were shown with their faces blurred out — each one of them a potential victim of sexual abuse. Also bizarre was the fact that the BBC was effectively conducting a televised inquisition into itself.

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