Savile scandal: BBC in the dock over ‘monstrous’ sexual abuse culture

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Feb 26, 2016 10:14 IST
A file picture taken in London on June 4, 2002, shows former television presenter Jimmy Savile. An inquiry into sexual abuse by late presenter Jimmy Savile at the BBC found there was a culture of "reverence" towards celebrities at the British broadcaster which helped protect him. (AFP Photo)

The BBC came in for stinging criticism on Thursday after an independent report pointed to a culture of “monstrous sexual abuse” in the corporation that involved nearly 100 people and went undetected for decades.

Janet Smith, who started the independent inquiry in October 2012, found that despite what had happened with presenters Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall in previous years, those who worked at the BBC were still worried about reporting potential abuse and taking on the public service broadcaster’s stars.

She concluded that “an atmosphere of fear still exists today in the BBC possibly because obtaining work in the BBC is highly competitive and many people no longer have the security on an employment contract”.

The report said Savile sexually assaulted 57 females and 15 boys from the late 1950s to the middle of the last decade. Three incidents of rape and attempted rape took place on BBC premises, Smith said, and the youngest victim to whom she spoke was eight years old at the time of the offence.

Smith said the report made for “sorry reading” for the BBC. It reported a “macho culture” of sexism and sexual harassment and an “atmosphere of fear” that led many employees to keep quiet about concerns.

Smith found BBC staff “more worried about reputation than the safety of children”.

BBC director general Tony Hall apologised to the survivors of abuse and accepted Smith’s findings in full. Announcing a review of whistleblowing and child protection procedures, he said: “I accept conclusions and recommendations in full and equally important we have read, we have heard, we are listening and we understand. The importance of getting the culture right in our organisation is key.”

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