Sexual abuse report blames BBC's 'macho culture'

The 1,220-page report blames BBC management for doing nothing about the problem.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  Feb. 25, 2016 at 9:53 AM
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LONDON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The British Broadcasting Corp. was aware of sexual abuse complaints against star employee Jimmy Savile, but was constrained by a culture of fear, a report released Thursday says.

The 1,220-page report, compiled after an investigation led by former judge Dame Janet Smith, indicates Savile had at least 72 sexual abuse victims, male and female, while working as a prominent radio announcer and television personality. Eight were classified as rape victims, and other BBC employees were also named as sexual abusers, using their positions for exploitation. Former broadcaster Stuart Hall was identified as a sexual predator in 21 cases; the report said management in the BBC's Manchester office was aware of his conduct but did nothing.

The report cited a "macho culture" at the government-owned BBC, creating an "atmosphere of fear" and a "culture of not complaining" with a "deeply deferential" structure of management. It added there was 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," and that celebrities were "treated with kid gloves and were virtually untouchable".

Savile was regarded as an eccentric and as a BBC star who raised millions for charity. After his 2011 death the scope of sexual abuse allegations was revealed.

Hall went to jail in 2013 after admitting the indecent assault of 13 girls.

Referring to Savile and Hall, the report said, "Both of these men used their fame and positions as BBC celebrities to abuse the vulnerable. They must be condemned for their monstrous behavior." It added that Savile's predatory behavior dated to the 1960s, with many of the sexual assaults occurring during the 1970s, when he hosted the television music program "Top of the Pops." He used his celebrity status to sexually assault, young girls, without retribution, the report said.

Lord Tony Hall, BBC director general, responded, "The BBC failed you when it should have protected you. 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."

Radio announcer Tony Blackburn "parted company" with the BBC, Lord Hall said Thursday, over the report. Hall said Smith's inquiry rejected Blackburn's evidence that he was not one of the celebrities in the report referred to in connection with a 15 year-old girl who had been "seduced" in 1971. Blackburn has said the girl's accusation was quickly withdrawn; she committed suicide later in 1971.

Blackburn said Smith's review includes mention of an interview he had with a BBC executive and a BBC lawyer regarding the girl's diary; Blackburn said he repeatedly told the Smith inquiry he was never interviewed by either man.

Blackburn said, in a statement, "They are destroying my career and reputation because my version of events does not tally with theirs. Sadly, what is happening to me now seems entirely in keeping with the past BBC culture of whitewash and cover-up."

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