Savile and Hall: BBC 'missed chances to stop attacks'

  • Published
Media caption,

Former colleagues explain why they think Savile was not exposed

The BBC missed opportunities to stop "monstrous" abuse by DJ Jimmy Savile and broadcaster Stuart Hall because of a "culture of fear", a report says.

The Dame Janet Smith review identified 72 victims of Savile - including eight who were raped - and 21 victims of Hall, over five decades from 1959.

She said BBC culture "was deeply deferential" and staff were reluctant to speak to managers about complaints.

Director general Lord Hall said the BBC had failed to protect the victims.

The review found that senior managers were not told of complaints about Savile because of an "atmosphere of fear" which still exists in the BBC.

However, a small number of BBC managers in Manchester had been aware of Hall's conduct, it said.

Hall, 86, who presented TV show It's a Knockout, was jailed in 2013 after admitting indecently assaulting 13 girls.

Dame Janet said Savile - who died in 2011 aged 84 without ever facing prosecution - and Hall were "serial sexual predators" and the BBC had missed five clear opportunities to stop their misconduct.

The report found Savile would commit sexual assaults "whenever the opportunity arose" and incidents took place "in virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked".

His usual tactic with young girls - and in some cases boys - was to groom them by inviting them to watch him perform on set and then make a sexual approach in his dressing room, the report said.

Media caption,

Jimmy Savile victim: "It's been a traumatic journey"

When a junior employee at Television Centre complained to her supervisor in the late 1980s that she had been sexually assaulted by Savile, she was told "keep your mouth shut, he is a VIP", the report found.

The review, which cost £6.5m and is 1,000 pages and three volumes long, heard evidence from more than 700 people - including 117 witnesses from the BBC who had heard rumours about Savile.

They included two BBC managers who had confronted Savile over claims he took teenagers home from Top of the Pops - claims which Savile admitted, but said he was simply giving the girls a bed for the night because they had no where to stay.

The report's key findings

Media caption,

Dame Janet Smith says the BBC was 'concerned about its reputation' rather than risk to girls

The impartial investigation was set up by the BBC in 2012 to look at the corporation's culture and practices during the years it employed Savile - thought to be from 1964 to 2007. It found:

  • The victims of Savile in connection with his work at the BBC include eight people who were raped and one instance of an attempted rape. Others faced sexual assaults
  • The majority of the cases took place in the 1970s
  • The largest number of victims was in connection with Savile's work on Top of the Pops
  • The youngest victim of a sexual assault by Savile was eight years old
  • Eight informal complaints were made
  • Hall assaulted 21 females, the youngest aged 10, between 1967 and 1991
  • Certain junior and middle-ranking individuals had been aware of Savile's inappropriate sexual conduct, but there was no evidence the BBC as a corporate body had been aware
  • Two senior managers had been "aware" or "probably aware" of Hall's sexual assaults on BBC premises

Liz Dux, a specialist abuse lawyer who represents 168 of Savile's victims, said the report was "disappointing", and many victims would feel it was "nothing more than an expensive whitewash".

She said Dame Janet did not have the power to compel people to give evidence and her clients "will always be left with that feeling - is everything known about? Do we know the full picture?".

Meanwhile, Lord Hall said DJ Tony Blackburn had "parted company" with the BBC after failing to fully co-operate with the inquiry.

'Fame is power'

Mr Blackburn, 73, denies the allegation and says he was cleared of any wrongdoing. In a statement, he accused the BBC of making him a "scapegoat" and threatened to sue the corporation.

At a news conference to announce the details of the findings into the abuse of Savile and Hall, the director general apologised to their victims and said: "A serial rapist and a predatory sexual abuser both hid in plain sight at the BBC for decades.

"What this terrible episode teaches us is that fame is power, a very strong form of power and like any form of power it must be held to account... and it wasn't."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Stuart Hall was jailed in 2013 after admitting indecently assaulting 13 girls

BBC Trust chairwoman Rona Fairhead said the corporation had "turned a blind eye, where it should have shone a light".

House of Commons leader Chris Grayling said it was "inexplicable" that BBC staff had missed opportunities to stop the abuse.

Referring to Savile and Hall, Dame Janet said: "Both of these men used their fame and positions as BBC celebrities to abuse the vulnerable.

"They must be condemned for their monstrous behaviour."

Who should have known about the abuse?

Dame Janet's report highlights a number of people who either knew about Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall's abuse, suspected it, or should have known, but failed to take action. In the report, she said:

Ted Beston, Savile's Radio 1 producer, acted as a "provider" of young women for Savile at least once, and "must have realised" some of the girls were under-age - although he denies this - and should have reported it.

Canon Colin Semper, who worked with Savile as a producer and on his book God'll Fix It, was praised as "a completely honest man" - and the failure to stop Savile's behaviour had weighed heavily on his mind. However, he "clearly" had suspicions about Savile, and should have raised them with his superiors, the report said. He said on Thursday he felt "utter, utter sadness" that he had been "so angled towards the programme" that he had not seen through Savile.

Douglas Muggeridge, late controller of Radio 1 and 2 in 1973, launched two investigations into Savile in 1973 but the inquiries were more concerned with "risk of damage to the BBC's reputation" than the welfare of the girls who might be involved with Savile.

Raymond Colley, regional television manager at BBC Manchester from 1970 to 1986, spoke to Stuart Hall about his conduct but failed to check up on the star's behaviour - which could have stopped further abuse. He said he never knew anything about specific incidents, and if he had he would have taken action.

Tom German, late BBC Manchester editor in the 1970s, was "probably aware" Hall was having sex on BBC premises and should have shared concerns with Mr Colley, but had not known any underage girls were involved.

Dame Janet said there had been a "culture of separation, competition and even hostility between different parts of the BBC, so that concerns arising in one part would not be discussed with others".

"Staff were reluctant to speak out to their managers because they felt it was not their place to do so," she said.

She said celebrities had been "treated with kid gloves and were virtually untouchable".

Savile exploited his celebrity status to abuse hundreds of adults and children across the country, assaulting or raping them in television dressing rooms, hospitals, schools, children's homes and his caravan.

The abuse is thought to have begun in the mid-1940s, when he was in his late teens or early 20s, and lasted until 2009.

Who was Jimmy Savile?

In his lifetime, millions knew Jimmy Savile as an eccentric TV personality.

He was one of Britain's biggest stars, a larger-than-life character who was known for tea time TV favourites such as Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It, as well as stints on BBC Radio 1.

He was also, to some, Saint Jimmy, a diligent fundraiser who raised £40m for charity.

But, a year after his death in 2011, allegations of abuse surfaced.

It transpired that he was, in fact, one of the UK's most prolific sexual predators.

He had been exploiting his status to prey on hundreds of people - girls and boys, men and women, but mostly vulnerable young females.

In 2015, reports on Savile's links with hospitals and children's homes revealed the late DJ abused patients, staff and visitors at institutions over many years.

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