Most Americans will have never heard of Jimmy Savile, the flamboyant disc jokey, television presenter and charity campaigner who, by the time of his death last year at the age of 84, had become a legend in the field of what we Brits call ‘light entertainment’. Savile was best known for the long-running BBC show Jim’ll Fix It, in which he would arrange for the wishes of youngsters to come true.
Savile was also famous for his gaudy costumes, his jewellery, his mane of silver hair, his cigars and his numerous catchphrases. He was a bachelor, and managed on the whole to keep his private life private. Perhaps inevitably given his ‘unusual’ lifestyle, and the fact that much of both his charity and broadcasting work involved him being around children, there were rumors of sexual misconduct, and a couple of allegations of indecent assault. Nothing, however, was proven.
So it did not come entirely as a surprise, when, shortly after his death, new allegations of sexual assaults on teenage girls as young as 14 began to emerge. But the volume of complaints has grown at an astonishing rate. A few days ago, police investigating the claims described Savile as a ‘predatory sex offender’, and said they were pursuing 340 lines of inquiry involving 40 potential victims – including young boys – and were dealing with allegations dating back to 1959.
The fact that Savile was apparently able to get away with committing rapes and other assaults for so long is bad enough. But what’s even more disturbing is that most of the alleged attacks were carried out while he worked for the BBC, and in many cases are said to have taken place in its offices and dressing rooms. It’s claimed that senior figures at the BBC turned a blind eye to Savile‘s behavior over the years, and that of other male stars.
And the cover-up continued after Savile‘s death. When the allegations against the star became widespread the BBC’s Newsnight program began an investigation, but the report was never aired. The BBC is investigating both the decision to pull the investigation, and the allegations against Savile, and senior figures in the corporation are to be quizzed by a parliamentary committee.
There’s a note of irony about the scandal in which the BBC finds itself embroiled. One reason why, at least in the 1960s and 1970s, Savile‘s bosses and colleagues were able to ignore or excuse his behavior was that it was taking place against the backdrop of the sexual revolution, and the advent of the ‘permissive society’, which the BBC played no small part in celebrating and promoting (for more on the prevailing ‘culture’ at the BBC, read this eye-popping account by a female presenter). Nowadays, such is the extent to which the corporation has embraced the modern diktats of political correctness, any male employee who so much as holds the lift door open for a female colleague risks being hit with a sex discrimination complaint.
What makes this affair particularly galling for the BBC is that, while any major organization would rightly be castigated for systemically covering up sexual assaults on young girls, none has appointed itself the arbiter of an entire nation’s morals and tastes to the extent the BBC has. It’s by some distance the most smug and self-righteous institution in Britain; in its fervor to impose its liberal-left worldview on the British people (its influence is also growing worldwide) it puts most religious bodies to shame.