Jimmy Savile was ‘weird’, says BBC DJ Tony Blackburn

Broadcaster tells Dublin summit he heard rumours but no proof Savile was paedophile

Veteran BBC broadcaster Tony Blackburn has described Jimmy Savile as a "weird" man who was disliked before the revelations after his death that he had been a predatory paedophile.

Blackburn said he heard rumours about Savile when he was alive, but “unless you see somebody doing something wrong, you can’t report him”.

Speaking at the Radiodays Europe conference in the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD), Blackburn stated: "We didn't realise he was as bad as he was. All I can say is that when I was at BBC Radio 1, I never saw any of that. It was a very well-run station run by very middle class, white English people who were decent."

Both Blackburn and Savile worked together in BBC Radio 1 in the early days of its operation, though Mr Blackburn said Savile was “never really part of the team”, as he would send in his pre-edited programme for broadcast.


Radio producer John Simons, who interviewed Blackburn for a question-and-answer session at the CCD, also described Savile as "weird, but we didn't know just how weird. There was nobody who knew what he was really up to. The fact that it was secret until after his death shows how tight he kept it."

Allegations of Savile’s paedophile tendencies only surfaced in public after his death in October 2011. British police believe he used his fame to abuse as many as 600 children.

The furore over Savile has led to scrutiny of the culture within BBC radio in the 1960s and 1970s. The BBC is conducting an internal investigation into how the broadcaster handled sex abuse rumours around that time.

Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis was acquitted on 12 charges of indecent assault earlier this year, but will find out later this week whether he faces a retrial over two further charges.

Other former BBC radio presenters and producers have been questioned under Operation Yewtree, which is investigating sexual abuse allegations in British celebrity circles.

Blackburn described BBC Radio 1 as a “beautifully run radio station, and it was not the way it was portrayed. Savile, unfortunately, tainted that image”.

Blackburn got his first start as a DJ on the pirate station Radio Caroline, which was stationed outside UK territorial waters to circumvent Britain’s draconian broadcasting restrictions at the time.

The 50th anniversary of Radio Caroline is tomorrow. Blackburn maintained Radio Caroline would not have happened without Irishman Ronan O'Rahilly, whose father owned the Greenore port in Co Louth.

Mr O’Rahilly converted an old Dutch ferry, The Fredericia, into a floating radio studio.

Radio Caroline transformed music radio in the UK and eventually the BBC followed suit, starting BBC Radio 1 as a pop music station in 1967. Mr Blackburn was the first voice on the new radio station.

The 71-year-old broadcaster said he owed everything to Radio Caroline and would not have the career he had without it. He currently works for six different radio stations, including a weekend slot on BBC Radio 2.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times