As the midnight oil burns at the BBC, are Auntie’s spinmeisters – their customary, right-on smugness rattled as never before – trying to put an angle on ‘Savile-gate’ that’s acceptable to a skeptical outside world they’d normally disdain?
And elsewhere, are veteran DJs from Radio 1’s heyday of the 1970s and 80s, wigs askew and jowls aquiver, seeking out the best briefs to hold their clammy hands if and when the plods come knocking?
Whatever the answers to those questions, it’s a fair bet that the outcome of a Scotland Yard probe into allegedly serial perverted crimes by the late Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile OBE, who died a year ago, aged 84, will see a savage indictment of BBC mismanagement and the deconstruction of many a haughty reputation.
In fact, the Metropolitan Police, who were quick to label the publicity vulture as a ‘predatory sex offender’ on a ‘national scale’, is following up 120, separate lines of enquiry dating back to 1959.
I’m sure, too, my learned friends will be clearing their diaries in anticipation of a deluge of new clients. Some will be household names from pop’s bygone era; others will be seeking retribution, saying they were victims of Savile’s depraved lust for young flesh.
George Entwistle, still warming up his chair as BBC Director General (DG), has already conceded the whacky weirdo was a wrong ‘un and apologised to any who may have been molested by him on BBC turf.
Entwistle’s also flip-flopped on demands for an in-house inquiry, first refusing one, but then performing a pirouette Darcey Bussell would envy. Yes, he says now, we’ll hold one (and preferably by a Leveson-style, independent judge, I hope), once the police have finished theirs.
However, an immediate problem for the DG – a veteran BBC stalwart, but only weeks into the top job – is to get all his ducks in a row over an axed Newsnight exposé of Savile, before ITV went ahead with its documentary, Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, aired earlier this month.
That rumours of the deceased DJ’s penchant for under-aged girls (and boys, apparently) echoed for decades round Broadcasting House, it seems odd in extremis that the BBC flagship news prog ditched its take on the Jim’ll Fix It crank after a six-week investigation.
Then there’s some iffy chronology about who at the top of the Corporation know what and when about it. According to the Sunday Times, Entwistle was said to be first aware of the Newsnight story being canned ‘when it was reported in the Press in December.’
Yet it didn’t make headlines until January 7 (though, naturally – as in the fog of war – facts can become clouded and memories blurred).
But these discrepancies following the no-show of the Newsnight inquiry – a decision made for ‘editorial reasons’ by its editor, Peter Rippon, insists the Beeb – only fuel speculation that there was a conspiracy of silence within Auntie’s hierarchy to covered up any abhorrent crimes Savile may have committed, because he was one of their most bankable assets.
Over 40 people now say they were his victims, while more are emerging daily. And, as I’ve posted here before (see: The strange case of Jimmy Savile, harmless oddball or devious pervert – Oct 5, 2012), some allegations made against him are so beyond repugnant, I won’t insult you by repeating them.Meanwhile, in the wake of ‘Savile-gate’, a can of potentially explosive worms is opening up concerning the entire Radio 1 ethos of his day. And surprisingly perhaps, some normally lippy, famous ‘voices’ appear to have been overcome by collective amnesia about events of 30 and 40 years ago, though not plucky Liz Kershaw.
One of the station’s first jockettes, she claims she was persistently groped while on air by a colleague and, on complaining, was told, ‘Don’t you like it? Are you a lesbian?’
Of Savile, Kershaw, now 54 – who described the macho culture of Radio 1 in the 80s as like a ‘rugby club locker-room’– told the Today Programme, ‘The rumours were there, the jokes were there. It was an open secret, Everyone joked about Jimmy Savile and young girls.’
And he wasn’t alone. The late John Peel, lauded as an icon of pop culture, made no secret of his fondness for teenyboppers and actually married a 15-year-old named Shirley Anne Milburn, when he was 26 and working in Texas. Some years later, after their divorce in 1973, the former Mrs. P committed suicide.
It’s my belief, then, that any BBC investigation must not be limited to Savile alone, but should probe deeply into the off-air antics of any Radio 1 presenter about whom there is a whiff of salacious scandal.
A thorough, transparent cleansing of Auntie’s Augean Stables is required if Britain’s premier pop-music radio station is to retain a shred of credibility.
Because an increasingly vocal public is demanding to know that if the BBC ignored all the warning signs that it was sheltering a sex monster in its midst in Savile, were others overlooked who were similarly culpable?