BBC boss questioned Savile
A senior member of staff at the BBC has revealed he questioned Jimmy Savile over rumours about his private life more than 20 years ago.
As British police revealed the DJ and television presenter’s alleged catalogue of child sex abuse could have spanned six decades and included around 60 victims, Derek Chinnery, BBC Radio 1 controller from 1978 to 1985, admitted that he asked the presenter directly about the rumours.
The scandal has mushroomed since ITV screened a documentary in which five women alleged they were abused by the late DJ and broadcaster, with Scotland Yard saying yesterday that there are allegations spanning 1959 to 2006.
Mr Chinnery, who was Savile’s boss at Radio 1, told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House: “I asked, ‘what’s all this, these rumours we hear about you Jimmy?’
“And he said, ‘that’s all nonsense’. There was no reason to disbelieve (Savile).”
Savile worked at BBC Radio 1 from 1969 to 1989 presenting a show of chart songs from previous decades.
Speaking about his acceptance of Savile’s denial, Mr Chinnery told the BBC: “It’s easy now to say how could you just believe him just like that.”
He added: “He was the sort of man that attracted rumours, after all, because he was single, he was always on the move, he was always going around the country.”
Scotland Yard is pursuing 340 lines of inquiry in the Savile abuse case and so far 12 allegations of sexual offences have been officially recorded but this number is increasing, police said.
Metropolitan police detectives are in contact with 14 other forces as the number of allegations against the former DJ continues to rise.
The BBC has been sucked into the scandal after it emerged that Newsnight abandoned an investigation into the alleged abuse. The organisation has also come under fire with claims that staff were aware of the Jim’ll Fix It presenter’s behaviour and failed to take action.
On Friday, BBC director-general George Entwistle offered a “profound and heartfelt apology” to the alleged victims of Savile’s sexual abuse as he announced that two inquiries would be launched.
One will look into whether there were any failings over the handling of the abandoned Newsnight piece.
A second independent inquiry will look into the “culture and practices of the BBC during the years Jimmy Savile worked here”, Mr Entwistle said.
Sir Michael Lyons, who was chairman of the BBC Trust from 2007 to 2011, welcoming the investigations into Savile’s alleged behaviour but added that there was “a degree of hysteria” when controversies arose involving the BBC.
“It clearly has consequences for the BBC, but frankly I think the consequences spread well beyond the BBC,” he told the Sky News Murnaghan programme today:
“There may well be lessons here to learn about the way that we tolerate the behaviour of predatory men, particularly when they are in powerful positions.
“And there may be lessons to learn - I am sure there - about the license that we sometimes allow to celebrities. This goes well beyond the BBC although there are issues for the BBC to address.”
Talking generally about controversy at the BBC, he added: “As they emerge the BBC perhaps understandably becomes a very intense focus for people’s concern and anxieties, after all it is the national broadcaster, we do want to trust it, we do need to be able to trust what it says, so it is naturally the focus where these cases relate to it.
“But equally you have to say actually there is a degree of hysteria in the extent to which it’s focused exclusively on the BBC rather than being seen as something of much wider consequence.”
He continued: “What we hear are not just allegations relating to the BBC - although I don’t want to diminish those - but also allegations made about hospital and prison contexts.
“If they are proved right here we have a serial offender potentially across a wide range of settings.
“None of that detracts from the importance of the BBC making sure that it understands what happened and make sure there is no risk at all of such events happening now.”