More Allegations Emerge Against BBC In Jimmy Savile Scandal

A celebrity who was a serial rapist and molester operated at the BBC for years, was revered, and knighted. After he died, the BBC bungled its own efforts to investigate and expose him.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, has long been seen as a gold standard in journalism. Lately, though, that reputation has been called into question over how the network handled accusations against one of its biggest TV stars. The late Jimmy Savile is accused of being a serial pedophile.

NPR's Philip Reeves reports now on conclusions released today from an investigation into the scandal.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JIM'LL FIX IT")

JIMMY SAVILE: Thank you. Thank you, dear friends. Now then, now then, straight to business. Ooh, this one's...

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: In his life, Jimmy Savile was celebrated by the British as a national treasure. He became a household name as a white-haired, cigar-puffing and generally rather weird TV presenter. His charity work, especially with children, won him a knighthood and, if not the nation's affection, certainly it's respect.

In his death, Savile has an altogether different reputation. Police suspect him of several hundred crimes, including dozens of rapes. In fact, Sir Jimmy Savile may have been one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JIM'LL FIX IT")

SAVILE: And she said: Dear Jim, my brother, Jeffrey, who is 5 likes animal biscuits, especially the elephant ones...

REEVES: Today saw the publication of an independent report into the BBC's handling of the Savile scandal. It explored why the BBC shelved an investigation by its TV current affairs show "Newsnight" exposing Savile's activities. Did BBC bosses bury that story in favor of a TV tribute, lionizing Savile after his death?

The inquiry was commissioned by the BBC itself and led by Nick Pollard, former head of Sky News. "Newsnight" got the story right, said Pollard, as he unveiled his findings. He said "Newsnight" found what he called clear and compelling evidence that Savile was a pedophile. But he added...

NICK POLLARD: The decision by their editor to drop the original investigation was clearly flawed. And the way it was taken was wrong, though I believe it was done in good faith.

REEVES: The BBC will take some solace in Pollard's conclusion that there was no cover-up. Yet, his report is excoriating about the corporation's handling of the Savile scandal as it played out.

POLLARD: The BBC's management system proved completely incapable of dealing with it. The level of chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time.

JOHN TUSA: I mean, the language is really absolutely extraordinary: personal distrust internally among BBC News management, chaos and confusion.

REEVES: John Tusa is a former head of the BBC World Service and a former "Newsnight" presenter. The Savile scandal prompted the resignation, a couple of months back, of the BBC's director general. A new one's due to start soon. Tusa hopes to see an overhaul of the BBC's management systems.

TUSA: What seems to have happened is that it had become over managed, over bureaucratized, and people are so busy following the lines of communication that ordinary communication and editorial judgment and common sense went out of the window.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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