Monday, October 01, 2012

Why isn't the BBC covering a story - about itself?

One of the major news stories on TV news on ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News, and the major national newspapers are the allegations that the late childrens' TV star - Sir Jimmy Saville - was a recividist abuser of young girls.   It comes as a documentary is to be broadcast in two days time on ITV when women who claim they were abused, and a few who worked with him, will be telling stories about what he did.

The allegations are from the 1970s, involve girls ranging in age from 10 to 16, and one alleges rape.   Of course Saville's family is appalled these allegations are coming out now, given he died last year, but it has caused one high profile TV star, now a campaigner for children who are abused, to offer some contrition that people knew of rumours, that people had stories of catching him with girls, and chose to turn a blind eye.

He is dead, he can't defend himself.  He had no wife or children of his own, but he was one of the most popular TV personalities of the age.   

Yet if what the women say is true, and apparently the individual cases, coming from women from multiple parts of the country, have many common features, then it is far from surprising that young girls, with vulnerable backgrounds hardly felt able to complain (who to?) about a popular, famous, wealthy and well loved celebrity?

The 1970s were a period when it was remarkably difficult for children to be believed over abuse, particularly from otherwise well trusted figures.

However, what this story highlights is whether the BBC colluded in that culture, consciously or otherwise.

The BBC has made one sole statement, which is to say that it has gone through its files and found no record of allegations made.  It has also been reported that BBC decided against broadcasting a story about the allegations last year, because it couldn't substantiate the claims made by the women - which would only be possible if someone else was watching, or someone who the girls told could remember it (or was asked).

However, is that really a surprise?  Shouldn't the UK's leading broadcaster, a broadcaster that claims its right to demand with threat of prosecution £145.50 from every household, to compulsorily fund its nine TV channels, nine national and umpteen local radio stations, undertake some more scrutiny of its behaviour?

Is it not conceivable that if any of the girls made an issue of it, it would be dismissed, that the BBC was utterly unreachable in this age, for anyone seeking to complain, that anyone talking like that about such a popular ubiquitous star would be dismissed?  

How has the BBC changed in its treatment of TV hosts who spend time with children?  

Most of all, why isn't the BBC covering this and questioning its own (largely now retired) management of the time?

Doesn't it demonstrate that a state owned "public" broadcaster is incapable of being objective over its own behaviour, that it cannot be truly accountable and that if it cannot scrutinise its own staff, over 30 years after the event, that it can't possibly pretend to be some bastion of morality in the media?

In which case, how dare the BBC and its sycophantic supporters claim it has the moral authority to keep forcing people to pay for it - when it has taken a commercial, private broadcaster, to raise the taboo of a famous late TV star who may well have been a child abuser.

Allegations over major years (Guardian)
Saville interviewed under caution of allegations regarding girls' home (Telegraph)
Saville "Gary Glitter did nothing wrong" (Telegraph)
BBC newsroom assistant witnessed Saville snogging a young girl  (Telegraph)

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