Was DJ, TV presenter and predatory paedophile Jimmy Savile a lone wolf? Or was he aided and abetted by a cover-up at the heart of the BBC?
Jim’ll Fix It, the wish-granting BBC TV show that ran for nearly two decades, is nothing but a distant, awkward, besmirched memory. Before 2011, that is what Jimmy Savile, its host, was known for. That, and presenting Top of the Pops, getting an OBE and two knighthoods for charity work, and wearing those hilariously ugly tracksuits.
Today Jimmy Savile is known for having committed hundreds of acts of sexual abuse over the course of his career. 214 criminal offences have been recorded, including 34 rapes. The vast majority of his victims were under 18, and 28 victims were under 10, with 10 boys as young as eight. A total of 450 people have made complaints of sexual assault against him.
This campaign of abuse happened between 1955 and 2009, right under the nose of the BBC. For most of that time, Savile was in the employ of the broadcaster. And yet, Savile remained a national treasure right up until his death in 2011. Less than a year after his death, his exploits were finally exposed, quickly transforming him into a national disgrace.
It seems inconceivable that a figure as public as he was could get away with those levels of abuse in plain sight of the BBC… unless, of course, they knew exactly what he was doing and facilitated his campaign of abuse by covering it up.
Evidence that the BBC knew
In 1978, Sex Pistols front man John Lydon told BBC Radio 1:
“I’d like to kill Jimmy Savile. I think he’s a hypocrite. I bet he’s into all kinds of seediness that we all know about but are not allowed to talk about. I know some rumours… I bet none of this will be allowed out.”
As he predicted, the BBC edited the comment out of Lydon’s interview prior to broadcasting. Lydon also reported that he was banned from BBC radio after that. He has since Savile’s death expanded on his comments, saying that the underage perversions of Savile and others were common knowledge in the 70s, but were being suppressed.
In a 1990 interview for The Independent on Sunday, Lynn Barber asked Savile about rumours that he had a predilection for “little girls”. Savile said that because he worked in the pop music business, “… the young girls in question don’t gather round me because of me — it’s because I know the people they love, the stars… I am of no interest to them.”
So, not a denial then.
In a 2000 BBC documentary by Louis Theroux, When Louis Met… Jimmy, Theroux confronted Savile with rumours that he was a paedophile, which he denied.
In 2012, Sir Roger Jones, formerly BBC governor for Wales and chairman of BBC charity Children in Need, disclosed that he had banned Savile from taking part in the charity over a decade prior to Savile’s death. He said he thought Savile’s behaviour was “strange” and “suspicious”, and that he’d heard rumours about his activities.
In 2012, Karin Ward, formerly a pupil of a Surrey school where Savile was accused of preying on underage girls, reported that she was groped by Savile in his dressing room at the BBC Television Centre in the 70s. She said that Gary Glitter had raped a girl aged 13 in the same room. Already a convicted paedophile, Glitter was jailed in 2015 for truckload of further sex offences, which took place during his association with Savile and Jim’ll Fix It in the 70s.
Savile also made comments in 2009 in defence of Gary Glitter. In relation to Glitter’s 1999 conviction for possession of child pornography, Savile said to his biographer, in relation to the vilification of Glitter and others for watching child porn:
“It were for his own gratification. Whether it was right or wrong is up to him as a person… they [viewers] didn’t do anything wrong but they are then demonised.”
However, his comments were not published at the time, and the recording was not released until after Savile’s death.
Rumour and suspicion surrounded Jimmy Savile for 50 years. Surely that would encourage the BBC to investigate him. Surely they would want to be extra diligent. Surely they would want to safeguard children and young people who were appearing on Jim’ll Fix It and other shows Savile was involved in.
After all, Jimmy Savile was hiding in plain sight, but he wasn’t hiding very well. He said publicly that he did not own a computer because he didn’t want anyone thinking he was downloading child porn. That’s ominous for starters — who says that? Then there are his associations with and comments about Gary Glitter, rock ‘n’ roll’s worst sex offender. You can see for yourself how gross he was just by watching this clip from a 2006 episode of Celebrity Big Brother, when Savile was a guest at the Big Brother house. His comments and behaviour towards the females in the house are cringeworthy.
What’s even crazier is that Savile made vague admissions to improper sexual conduct in own autobiography, As It Happens, way back in 1974.
In the book, he recalled an incident when he was a nightclub manager in Leeds and a female police officer showed him a picture of an “attractive girl who had run away from a remand home”. He told the police, “If she comes in, I’ll bring her back tomorrow but I’ll keep her all night first as my reward.” The girl did come into the club and Savile implied that she consented to come home with him after considering the “alternative option”. It’s not clear what this option was, nor how old the girl was. However, it can be presumed that she was underage because he wrote this about the female police officer’s reaction when he brought the girl in:
“The officeress was dissuaded from bringing charges against me by her colleagues, for it was well known that were I to go I would probably take half the station with me.”
This anecdote has even wider implications. It suggests that even the police were in Savile’s pocket. Perhaps that’s why several police investigations into allegations made about Savile prior to his death were dropped.
For many, one of the tell-tale moments was when the BBC buried an episode of Newsnight, originally scheduled to air on 7th December 2011. The episode looked into reports that Savile was a sex abuser, and investigative journalists Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean found “cogent evidence” that Savile had abused children at schools, hospitals and at the BBC. Leaked to several newspapers was the fact that reporters had investigated Savile’s abuse and the BBC had chosen not to broadcast it. A cover-up was immediately alleged. It wasn’t until television station ITV broadcast a documentary in September 2012, Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, that the truth started to come out.
The BBC denied a cover-up (of course), saying that no evidence of misconduct or allegations of misconduct had been found in its files. At best, given the above, that demonstrates an appalling lack of diligence and care. At worst, another lie.
If the BBC knew, why didn’t they stop it?
Former High Court judge Dame Janet Smith was appointed to lead an inquiry into how Jimmy Savile was able to get away with all this during his years at the BBC. Her review found that Savile had sexually abused 72 people and raped eight people, one of whom was an eight-year-old, at “virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked”.
However, she concluded that senior management at the BBC knew nothing about it. She stated that certain BBC staff members were aware of complaints against Savile, but that they had chosen not to pass on the information to the higher-ups because of the “culture of not complaining”.
Christ. That’s nearly as bad as a cover-up anyway. It’s no surprise that these staff members wanted to remain anonymous in Smith’s review.
However, not everyone is convinced of Smith’s conclusions that BBC management weren’t in the loop about Savile. Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Andy Kershaw said this:
“Dame Janet Smith is asking us to believe that people at a certain level of management at the BBC and above, those in the loftier positions of management, had not heard the persistent and consistent rumours that everybody else who worked in the BBC, on the shop floor, had heard for years. For anyone to claim they hadn’t heard those rumours at the time, it is a little disingenuous I think.”
I agree. In fact, it seems to me that there was a concerted effort to protect him. The question is: why?
Well, firstly, Savile made the BBC lots of money. Jim’ll Fix It and Top of the Pops were huge TV shows. He was a commodity they couldn’t afford to lose. Secondly, Savile had friends in high places. He was a close friend of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who described his work as “marvellous”. Reportedly he spent 11 consecutive New Years Eves with her. He was given an OBE in 1972 and knighted by both the Queen and the Pope in 1990. He was also friends with Prince Charles and Princess Diana, particularly in the late 80s, and from the sounds of what he wrote in his autobiography, he had friends in the police force as well.
It’s as though his popularity, his success, and his connections with and influence over government, royalty and the police combined to create a kind of shield, protecting him from scrutiny.
Or perhaps it was even more sinister than that. In July 2014, an anonymous former colleague of TV presenter and journalist Jill Dando told the Daily Star that there was a secret paedophile ring within the BBC, which included Jimmy Savile, other major celebrities, and a number of high-up BBC staff. The source said that Jill Dando tried to alert her bosses to this paedophile ring — which could well have been the reason she was shot dead outside her home in 1999 by a professional assassin.
Something tells me that there could be a lot more going on here. Think I’ll be needing to do a follow-up blog to get to the bottom of it…
Next week: are UFO researchers being systematically bumped off?