Senior staff at the BBC are preparing themselves for the possibility of public condemnation when the outcome of Dame Janet Smith’s review into the Jimmy Savile affair is published. The former Court of Appeal judge is investigating how Savile was able to engage in the sexual abuse of both children and adults while working for the corporation and how it failed to recognise that fact despite the BBC’s own output hinting at it as long as 15 years ago.
The terms of Dame Janet’s review, commissioned by the BBC itself in 2012, require that she will:
“…investigate the extent to which BBC personnel were or ought to have been aware of inappropriate sexual conduct by Jimmy Savile in connection with his work with the BBC, and consider whether the culture and practices within the BBC during the years of Jimmy Savile’s employment enabled inappropriate sexual conduct to continue unchecked.”
ExaroNews reports that Dame Janet quizzed several BBC executives about what questions were asked regarding Savile following the “When Louis Met…” documentary about him broadcast first in April 2000. The profile by Louis Theroux of the children’s television and music broadcasting star featured a series of questions containing specific reference to accusations of paedophilia.
A spokeswoman at the BBC said that neither Theroux nor the BBC production team aware of specific allegations against Savile at the time of filming, however he “felt it appropriate to refer to the unsubstantiated rumours that had circulated about Jimmy Savile among journalists for years”. Crucially the programme was subjected to the “normal BBC compliance procedures”.
In the incriminating exchange Theroux asked Savile: “why do you say in interviews that you hate children when I’ve seen you with kids and you clearly enjoy their company and you have a good rapport with them?”
Savile immediately responded “obviously I don’t hate’ ’em. That’s number one.” When pushed as to why he would say he does, he replied: “Because we live in a very funny world. And it’s easier for me, as a single man, to say, ‘I don’t like children,’ because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt.”
Theroux pressed further, asking specifically whether Savile claims to hate children so that tabloid newspapers don’t “pursue this whole ‘Is he/isn’t he a paedophile?’ line.” The interview continued:
Savile: Yes, yes, yes. Oh, aye. How do they know whether I am or not? How does anybody know whether I am? Nobody knows whether I am or not. I know I’m not, so I can tell you from experience that the easy way of doing it when they’re saying ‘Oh, you have all them children on Jim’ll Fix It,’ say, ‘Yeah, I hate ’em.’
Theroux: Yeah. To me that sounds more, sort of, suspicious in a way, though, because it seems so implausible.
Savile: Well, that’s my policy, that’s the way it goes. That’s what I do. And it’s worked a dream.
Theroux: Has it worked?
Savile: A dream…
BBC sources told ExaroNews the corporation is vulnerable to the charge it failed to investigate properly and expects strong criticism for that shortcoming when the report is eventually published.
Although the report was ready for publication in May Dame Janet delayed it on police advice that it could prejudice what were then active criminal investigations.