I just want to put into words my sentiments after the recent revelations of Jimmy Savile, late TV personality and newly discovered predatory sex offender. Apart from the complete destruction of Savile's reputation as a fund-raiser of impeccable morals, it has also inflicted serious damage on the BBC's reputation - succinctly summarised by the organisation's byname of "Auntie Beeb".
Jimmy Savile, who died in November 2011 aged 86, is now known to have abused (vulnerable) children over a period stretching from the late 1950s until near the time of his death. Allegations, suspicions and rumours were never far from the star, and questions were asked - even to Savile himself - but never fully investigated or followed up. I cannot imagine what his victims had to go through over the decades to watch their tormentor persuing his career (both charitable and predatory) with impunity. Shortly after his death, an investigation by the BBC's Newsnight programme found creditable evidence of Savile's wrongdoing - but was inexplicably shelved at a day's notice. A few weeks later, on Boxing Day last year, a massive tribute was broadcast. But it was not until ITV broadcast the investigation that the BBC's Newsnight was barred from airing, earlier this month [I did not see it as I was in Holland at the time], that the cat finally came out of the bag.
To my mind, there was an attitude around (not just at the BBC) that Jimmy Savile was invulnerable, nobody could touch him - as he himself said in one interview. It does not say much good about attitudes at the broadcaster that this was allowed to continue for five decades. However, I have heard of at least one other person with a similar 'aura': Ratko Mladic, the erstwhile commander of the Bosnian Serb forces when overrunning the enclave at Srebrenica in 1995. Although there were dozens of armed UN soldiers around, nobody was able to put a bullet into Mladic - on account of the personality he radiated. And the same applies to Jimmy Savile.
This comes hard on the heels of an investigation into an event during the 1984/5 miners' strike, when a picket at the Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield was violently dispersed with excessive force by South Yorkshire Police. This was condoned by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who referred to the strikers as 'the enemy within'. At the time, the BBC faithfully broadcast a version of events that has now turned out to be biased against the miners.
In the 1980s, I regularly listened to BBC Radio 4 on longwave, living in Holland at the time. The BBC World Service was another source of information for me, and it had a reputation for unbiased, free and fair reporting. I extrapolated that to the whole of the BBC's output, but I don't think that was quite justified. The attitudes towards Jimmy Savile, compounded by the Orgreave revelations have damaged the broadcaster's integrity. The performance by the Director General, Mr Entwistle, this morning, did nothing to assuage my misgivings, in fact strengthened them.