The BBC said Friday it will launch an investigation into whether a permissive culture at the broadcaster enabled the decades-long abuse of underage girls. The announcement comes just over a week after several alleged victims came public claiming that they had been abused by the late TV host Jimmy Savile.
The government-funded BBC said it will investigate the scandal on two fronts: First by examining claims by the victims that Savile’s massive fame fostered a look-the-other-way culture of sex abuse, and second by looking into why an incriminating 2011 documentary about Savile by BBC’s “Newsnight” was shelved just days before it was set to broadcast.
The BBC is cooperating with British authorities, who told Reuters that they are looking into 120 lines of inquiry about Savile. Eight women have already filed criminal allegations against the late host. Two of the women say they were raped, while the remaining five are claiming indecent assault. British detectives believe more than a dozen more women will also file charges. At the time of the alleged abuse, the girls ranged in age from 13 to 16, with incidents dating as far back as 1959.
According to the British tabloid the Sun, one woman, now 53, claimed she was abused in the back of Savile’s Rolls Royce in 1974 when she was a 14-year-old schoolgirl. “He drove me back to school as if nothing had happened,” the unnamed woman is quoted as saying.
In a statement earlier this week, George Entwistle, the BBC’s director general, expressed his “revulsion,” saying the corporation owes it to the public to uncover the truth behind the alleged abuse. “The BBC will not avoid confronting the events of its past,” he said, “to understand what happened and to try to ensure that nothing of this kind can happen ever again at the BBC.”
The abuse scandal threatens further shake the once-solid reputation of the national broadcaster, which has been criticized in recent years for being overfunded and out of touch and with the general public.
Savile, who died last year at the age of 84, rose to national fame as the host of the wish-fulfillment show “Jim’ll Fix It,” which ran from 1974 to 1995 in the U.K. The beloved host, known for his cigar chomping and long silver hair, often appeared on television giving gifts to children in need.
On Tuesday, Savile’s gravestone was removed from its cemetery in the northeastern English town of Scarborough and sent to a landfill. Funeral director Robert Morphit told the Associated Press that the decision was made to “protect the dignity and sanctity” of the cemetery.
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