Jimmy Savile Report: Five Conclusions Reached

09/02/2016_Savile
Jimmy Savile in London, April 9, 1970. Savile's conduct at the BBC has been exposed in a new report. Reuters/Mal Langsdon

Yet again, the BBC's handling of Jimmy Savile , the once-beloved entertainer and TV personality exposed after his death as one of Britain's most prolific sexual predators, has entered the spotlight.

A long-awaited report by Dame Janet Smith into his conduct and that of his workplace, Britain's public broadcaster, has now been published. It makes for uncomfortable reading, painting a picture of a culture where stars (or "the talent") were unaccountable and loyalty to programmes or departments often trumped everything else.

Smith interviewed over 380 witnesses about Savile. Here are five key things she said she found:

Savile committed many acts of inappropriate sexual conduct in connection with his work for the BBC , said Smith. While many of his most serious crimes took place on his own property, Smith said "they were... connected with Savile's work for the BBC. Usually, Savile either met the victim at the BBC or else he groomed the victim by offering the opportunity to attend the BBC." The report concluded Savile had abused 72 victims in relation to his BBC work over almost 50 years.

The BBC's closed culture in the 1970s and 1980s made it hard for staff to complain about Savile. According to Smith, the BBC was structured in such a way as to allow departmental managers maximum independence without close supervision from above. Management culture did not encourage openness... and did not recognize the sense of insecurity which inhibited staff from speaking out," said Smith. "Sexual harassment of women was common, during the Savile years, in the Light Entertainment Department and BBC Radio 1," she added. "Women found it difficult to report sexual harassment and generally the attitude of the male managers was thought to be unsympathetic."

"I have found no evidence that the BBC as a corporate body was aware of Savile's conduct," Smith said. While many junior and mid-level staff were aware of inappropriate behavior from Savile, the report concluded that nobody at the very highest levels was aware of any specific incidents. But, Smith added, "there were occasions when senior BBC staff did not find out about things which they ought to have found out about." "There was," she added, "during the period covered by the Savile investigation, a culture within the BBC which made it difficult to complain or to say anything to management which might 'rock the boat.'" The BBC also failed to properly investigate some of the allegations it was made aware of.

The BBC today can learn from what happened in the 1970s. "The BBC needs to demonstrate to the public that it has taken the current criticisms seriously and has made, or is making, such changes as are necessary and appropriate to ensure that these terrible events cannot occur again," Smith said. She acknowledged, however, that much has changed at the BBC in the intervening years, including the introduction of robust child protection policies, and added that the BBC was far from alone among 1970s organizations in not taking allegations of sexual misconduct seriously.

The culture of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s made getting away with child abuse easier. Smith drew some interesting historical conclusions about the culture of the U.K. in this period and how it contributed to the culture at the BBC. "Society had [already] had to accept that girls of 15 sometimes would have intercourse and could not effectively be stopped," Smith said. "But it seems that, at least in some sectors of society, that was taken to mean that the age of consent was not important; if the girl was willing, the fact that she was under the age at which she could consent was not of great importance."

Jimmy Savile Report: Five Conclusions Reached | World