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Silence on abuse reports plunges BBC into scandal

world Updated: Oct 15, 2012 00:20 IST

As host of the TV programs "Jim'll Fix It" and "Top of the Pops," Jimmy Savile was one of the British Broadcasting Corporation's best-known figures in a four-decade career spanning the 1960s to the mid-1990s.

But now he is the subject of numerous posthumous investigations into whether he sexually abused perhaps dozens of underage girls, some of them on BBC property.

The scandal has engulfed the corporation, which failed to investigate rumors or take seriously accusations about his behavior at the time.

Perhaps even more damningly, it canceled a segment about the allegations that was scheduled to be broadcast last December on "Newsnight," an influential evening current-affairs program.

About the same time, BBC broadcast three tributes to Savile, who died last year at 84.

The BBC has said that the "Newsnight" segment was canceled not out of concern about the corporation's reputation, but for "editorial reasons," because the accusations could not be substantiated.

But on Friday, its new director general, George Entwistle, announced that an independent panel would investigate whether any BBC executives improperly pressured "Newsnight."

The allegations have been around for years, but they were publicly aired this month when ITV, a commercial TV station, broadcast a documentary in which five women said they had been molested or raped by Savile.

Before the ITV program was broadcast, the BBC pre-emptively released a statement saying it had looked into the matter and found no evidence to support the accusations. But that changed in recent days.