BBC director general Tony Hall said that the BBC “could have known” about abuse carried out by Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall while they were working for the organisation, and praised victims for coming forward and sharing evidence with the investigation led by Dame Janet Smith, which delivered its report today.
Addressing the victims, Hall said, “The BBC failed you when it should have protected you,” adding that, “Your voice has finally been heard, but I also recognise that it’s been heard far, far too late.”
Dame Janet’s report identified 72 victims of Savile while he was working from the BBC, 19 of whom were assaulted in his connection to Top of the Pops, and 17 in connection with Jim’ll Fix It, with the youngest just eight years old.
“Savile would gratify himself sexually on BBC premises whenever the opportunity arose and I heard of incidents which took place in virtually every one of the BBCs premises in which he worked,” Dame Janet said.
She said the report could not show that BBC senior management above the level of producer had been aware of claims made about Savile but Hall said they could have been.
“It seems to me that the BBC could have known,” Hall said. “Just as powerful as the accusation, ‘You knew’, is the legitimate question, ‘How could you not have known?”
Hall said he accepted the conclusions and recommendations of the report in full. He promised to continue to address the three main weaknesses in the Corporation’s structure, as identified by Dame Janet’s report, that allowed Savile and Hall to commit their crimes: the lack of cohesion at the BBC; the hierarchical nature of its management; and the BBC’s deferential attitude to broadcast ‘talent’.
Hall agreed with Dame Janet’s assessment that talent was handled with “kid gloves” while at the BBC, meaning that their actions were rarely challenged.
“One of the survivors was told, ‘Keep your mouth shut. He’s a VIP,'” Hall said. “It was the BBC that made him famous. We made him a VIP.”
Hall added, “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. It must be limited. It must be scrutinised. And it wasn’t.”
He said that the BBC would review all their policies and procedures in the light of the Savile and Hall reports. He promised to publish an improvement report this July.