BBC apologises to women in Savile case


LONDON – The BBC yesterday apologised to a group of women who allege that one of the state-funded broadcaster’s top entertainers sexually abused them decades ago, a scandal that has raised questions about the BBC’s judgment then and now.

BBC presenter Sir Jimmy Savile, who is accused of using his status as a celebrity and prominent charity fundraiser to commit the crimes, died last year at 84.

Savile was famous for his larger-than-life personality. The former DJ travelled around London in a Rolls-Royce and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his charitable work in 1990. His reputation was called into question last week, however, after a documentary shown by ITV aired a slew of sexual assault allegations against Savile, triggering a media storm that has raised awkward questions for the BBC.

Yesterday the BBC’s new director general, George Entwistle, promised the corporation would co-operate fully with the police to investigate the allegations. “The women involved here have gone through something awful and it’s something I deeply regret,” he said. This was the first time the BBC had said it was sorry for what allegedly happened.

“I would like to apologise on behalf of the organisation to each and every one of them for what they have had to endure here.”

Some women said Savile had abused them when they were as young as 12 and described a culture of sexual abuse inside the BBC in the 1970s and 1980s. Some also alleged they had been attacked on BBC premises.

Critics have accused the BBC of mishandling or even covering up the case, particularly after an investigation into the allegations by its own flagship TV programme Newsnight was axed by its editors last December.

British prime minister David Cameron has waded into the controversy, calling on the BBC to conduct an investigation, saying the allegations were “truly shocking”.

“It seems to me it is very important that the organisation, the BBC, does that itself,” he said. “But also, if there are questions that should be pursued by the police and other organisations, everyone has to ask themselves the question: ‘Is there new evidence that needs to be looked at?’”

– (Reuters)