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Savile investigation: Allegations against 'eight to ten' BBC employees

George Entwistle says it’s too early to tell, but the BBC will assist police investigations into a possible paedophile ring.

BBC director-general George Entwistle speaks to MPs at the House of Commons media committee today.
BBC director-general George Entwistle speaks to MPs at the House of Commons media committee today.
Image: PA Wire

THE SEXUAL ABUSE scandal shaking the BBC has broadened beyond the allegations against Jimmy Savile, with the broadcaster’s chief saying the corporation was investigating claims of abuse and harassment against as many as 10 former and current staff.

The BBC has been rocked by allegations that longtime children’s host Savile, who died last year, abused underage teens over several decades, sometimes on BBC premises. Some of the alleged victims have accused other entertainers and BBC staff of participating in abuse during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Director-general George Entwistle told a British parliamentary committee today that the BBC is looking into historical allegations of sexual abuse or harassment against “between eight and 10″ past and present employees.

Separately, the BBC press office said it was aware of “nine allegations of sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct” involving current staff or contributors to the BBC, which employs some 20,000 people.

Entwistle said it was too early to say whether sexual abuse had been endemic within Britain’s publicly funded national broadcaster, but insisted the BBC would assist police if detectives chose to investigate whether there had been a paedophile ring at the corporation.

Entwistle acknowledged there had been “a problem of culture within the BBC … a broader cultural problem” that allowed Savile’s behaviour to go unchecked.

“There is no question that what Jimmy Savile did and the way the BBC behaved … will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us,” Entwistle said. “This is a gravely serious matter, and one cannot look back at it with anything other than horror.

Journalists interview their own bosses

Entwistle’s testimony before the Culture, Media and Sport committee came a day after the BBC aired a powerful documentary about the corporation’s role in the expanding sex abuse scandal involving Savile, who died a year ago at age 84.

Since Savile’s death, scores of women and several men have come forward to say the entertainer — a longtime host of programmes including ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ — abused them when they were children or teenagers. Police have identified more than 200 potential victims.

The BBC, one of the world’s largest and most respected broadcasters, is under fire for failing to stop the abuse and for pulling an expose on Savile from TV schedules at the last minute in December. The sex allegations were later aired on the rival ITV network.

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The head of the BBC’s Newsnight program, Peter Rippon, has been suspended pending an investigation of his decision to scrap the Savile story.

Last night’s documentary, which was watched by more than 5 million people, presented the unusual spectacle of BBC journalists grilling their own bosses about why the piece had been dropped.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of the story, the parliamentary committee spent two hours Tuesday questioning Entwistle, who has been in the BBC’s top job for just a month, after years in senior news and current affairs roles.

It may also want to question his predecessor, Mark Thompson, who led the organisation at the time the Newsnight report was pulled. Thompson was appointed chief executive of the New York Times in August and is due to take up the post next month.

He told ITV News that if “the police inquiry or the select committee want to hear from me, of course I’ll help in any way I can.”

Read: BBC editor who dropped Savile expose ‘stepping aside’

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