What Did the BBC Know About the Jimmy Savile Scandal?

Staff at the British broadcaster knew the iconic DJ was a serial sexual predator, but its management wasn’t made aware of the complaints, a new report says.

Jimmy Savile  (Mal Langsdon / AP)

Jimmy Savile was an iconic British DJ, who raised millions of pounds for children’s charities, and during his decades-long career at the BBC earned the monicker Saint Jimmy. But Savile, who died in 2011, was also a “serial sexual predator,” who preyed on girls as young as eight, often with the knowledge of BBC staff, a new report says.

The Dame Janet Smith review, to give the three-volume, 1,000-page report into the sexual abuse by Savile its official name, identified 72 victims, all connected to his work at the BBC; eight of them had been raped. Most of the assaults—44—took place in the 1970s, but they began in the 1940s and continued until 2009, the report said.

Staff at the BBC knew about complaints against Savile, the report said, but did not pass those concerns on to management because of a culture of fear that still persists at the corporation.

To understand what Savile represented in the U.K., here’s how The New York Times previously described his status: “In American terms, it is as if Captain Kangaroo, Dick Clark and Jerry Lewis were suddenly being accused of committing sexual crimes dating back 30 or 40 years.”

Also named in the review, which was released Thursday, was Stuart Hall, the veteran BBC broadcaster who is now in his 80s. Hall admitted in 2013 to charges of indecently assaulting girls. He was jailed that year and is serving a 4½-year sentence for his actions. The report said Hall abused 21 girls, and that BBC management in Manchester knew of the complaints against him, but did nothing.

“Both of these men used their fame and positions as BBC celebrities to abuse the vulnerable,” Smith said in her review. “They must be condemned for their monstrous behavior.”

The review also criticized the culture at the corporation that allowed complaints against the two men to go unheeded for decades. Smith wrote that a culture of “separation, competition, and hostility” between different parts of the BBC prevented concerns arising in one to be discussed with others.

“Staff were reluctant to speak out to their managers because they felt it was not their place to do so,” Smith said.

The BBC failed the victims, said Rona Fairhead, the chairman of the BBC Trust, which ordered the review in 2012 soon after the allegations against Savile became public.

“It turned a blind eye, where it should have shone a light,” Fairhead said. “And it did not protect those who put their trust in it.”

Tony Hall, who is the director general of the BBC and no relation to the disgraced broadcaster, told the victims that the corporation had “failed” them.

“A serial rapist and a predatory sexual abuser both hid in plain sight at the BBC for decades,” he said.

The allegations against Savile came to light soon after his death when five women came forward on ITV, a rival broadcaster, and said Savile had abused them in the 1970s. Three said the abuse occurred at the BBC’s facilities.

Smith interviewed 700 people as part of her investigation, which cost about $9 million.