New York, March 7:
The British Broadcasting Corporation, whose “internal culture” was described as “rotten” by a prominent British politician, has a record of trying to cover up sexual attacks by its own employees, including canceling a TV programme on a BBC star personality who was a serial child rapist.
BBC canceled the investigative report exposing its popular presenter Jimmy Savile’s predatory sexual attacks on scores of children that was scheduled to have been broadcast in December 2011 in the Newsnight programme.
Just last week a report by a panel investigating Savile’s sexual crimes at one of the hospitals where he volunteered reported that he had attacked 60 people there, about half of them under 16 years, some as young as eight.
A report by the Metropolitan Police and the Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said in 2013 that 214 criminal offences have been formally recorded in which Savile is a suspect and these took place from 1955 to 2009. Many of the abuses took place in 14 medical establishments.
British Members of Parliament have expressed concern over the BBC ignoring sexual abuses by its own employees.
The Guardian reported in 2012 that Labour MP Harriet Harman had asked what it was about the BBC and the hospitals where the abuses took place that had prevented people coming forward when Savile was alive.
And after the newspaper exposed allegations against BBC employees in 2013, Conservative politician Rob Wilson said, “For years the BBC’s management allowed a culture to develop of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse and allowing powerful bullies to prosper.”
“The internal culture of the BBC was rotten and it remains to be seen whether it still is,” he added according to the newspaper. Wilson, an MP at that time, is now the Minister for Civil Society.
Later in 2013, Wilson accused the BBC Trust’s chairman, Lord Patten, of displaying “chilling behaviour” when he tried to prevent Wilson from publishing the contents of an audio recording that brought into question a key aspect of an inquiry into the cancellation of the Newsnight programme, according to The Telegraph. The recording was of the inquiry head, Nick Pollard, which “reportedly undermines his own findings,” the newspaper said.
“Lord Patten’s threat to a democratically-elected Member of Parliament is almost reminiscent of something from the Soviet-era,” the Telegraph quoted Wilson. “It is chilling behaviour from the so-called public ‘guardian’ of this country’s dominant state broadcaster.”
BBC is funded by a government-imposed levy on all British households that watch broadcasts on television, regardless of whether they view BBC programmes or not.
In 2012 when his inquiry report was released, Pollard, a former Sky News head, said “The efforts to get to the truth behind the Savile story proved beyond the combined efforts of the senior management, legal department, corporate communications team and anyone else for well over a month.”
The Guardian had obtained the information about the sex abuse of children and teens by BBC employees through a Freedom of Information request. It said that in the six months since October 2012, 20 BBC employees had faced 36 allegations of sex abuse of “an unknown number of victims under the age of 18.”
Citing the FoI request report, the Guardian said, “The complaints were among a total of 152 recent and historic allegations of sexual abuse against 81 BBC employees and freelancers, including 48 about Savile. Each of the complaints, involving adults and children, have been made to the BBC since October.”
The Guardian said that half the number of the accused were current members of BBC staff or contributors, as of May 30, 2013.
Reports of sex abuse by several BBC employees began to come out in the open after the accusations against the network star Savile became public even though BBC blacked out the Newsnight report.
In 2012, ITV ran a report of its own investigations into Savile’s decades-long history of sexual attacks.
When the report of the review into Savile’s attacks at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, about 65 kilometres from London, was released last week, Dr Androulla Johnstone, who led the inquiry, said, “The Investigation found that none of the informal complaints were either taken seriously or escalated to senior management.”
“Savile’s victims ranged in age from eight (to) 40 and almost half were under 16, with ten being under the age of 12,” Johnstone said in a press statement. “Around one-third of his attacks were against patients. Just over ninety per cent of the victims were female.”
Her statement added, “The sexual abuse ranged from inappropriate touching to rape.”
Calling Savile an “opportunistic predator,” her statement said, “Between 1972 and 1985, nine informal verbal reports were made about the abuse by his victims and in addition one formal complaint was made. ”
Another broader review of Savile’s conduct and into “whether the culture and practices within the BBC during the years of Jimmy Savile’s employment enabled inappropriate sexual conduct to continue unchecked” is dragging on. It is headed by a Janet Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge .
On its web site the review, set up in 2012, said it had been in contact approximately 740 people till last September and more people were contacting it as of December. It expected to have a report ready early this year.
Pollard’s inquiry report on the cancellation of the Newsnight expose of Savile said that BBC’s top leadership was not involved in the decision.
The Telegraph reported, “However, it did not include testimony from Helen Boaden, the BBC’s former Head of News. She alleged that Mark Thompson, the corporation’s former director general, was aware of the content of the Newsnight investigation.”
“Despite her testimony Pollard’s inquiry found that there was ‘no evidence to doubt’ Mr Thompson’s version of events,” the newspaper said.
In Wilson’s recording that BBC tried to suppress, the Telegraph said, “Pollard reportedly privately admits that he was wrong to overlook Miss Boaden’s evidence” that Thompson knew about what the Newsnight investigation found.
Thompson is now the Chief Executive Officer of The New York Times.