Claims of sexual abuse have been made against a late BBC children's TV presenter
Five women say Jimmy Savile abused them when they were teenage girls
The BBC says it is horrified by the claims of abuse, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s
A nephew of Savile, who was knighted for his charitable work, defends his reputation
Britain’s public service broadcaster, the BBC, was caught up in a growing furor Saturday over claims that a late children’s TV presenter sexually abused young women and girls, sometimes on its premises, in the 1960s and 1970s.
The abuse claims, which come almost a year after presenter Jimmy Savile died, were made by five women in a documentary screened by rival broadcaster ITV Wednesday.
Those interviewed for the film, titled “Exposed – the other side of Jimmy Saville,” gave detailed accounts of sexual assault while as young as 14 or 15. One said she was raped by him at age 16.
Interviewed on a BBC program Saturday, BBC Director of Editorial Policy David Jordan gave what appeared to be the strongest confirmation yet from the broadcaster of wrongdoing on its premises.
“I think the fundamentals of the story are now well established,” he said. “We now know that a number of women were appallingly sexually abused by Jimmy Savile, sometimes on BBC premises, at times during the 1960s and 1970s.”
The police are now involved in the matter and the BBC says it is cooperating fully.
London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement Friday that its officers had met with representatives from the BBC and a national child protection charity.
“We are now collating information gathered from a range of sources across the UK and will continue contacting individuals who have made allegations in relation to the late Jimmy Savile over the coming weekend,” it said.
“We do not expect to have a clear picture of exactly how many women may have suffered abuse until next week and want to allow time for victims to reflect on what they may have experienced.”
Savile, who hosted popular children’s TV programs including “Jim’ll Fix It” and “Top of the Pops,” was a household name in Britain for decades. He was also well known for his charitable work, having raised millions of pounds, and was awarded a knighthood. He died last October aged 84.
A BBC statement released earlier this week said it was horrified by the claims that have emerged.
“A number of serious and disturbing allegations have been made over the past few days about the sexual abuse of teenage girls by Sir Jimmy Savile,” it said.
“Some of these allegations relate to activity on BBC premises in the 1960s and 70s. We are horrified by allegations that anything of this sort could have happened at the BBC – or have been carried out by anyone working for the BBC.
“They are allegations of a serious criminal nature which the police have the proper powers to investigate.”
A nephew of Savile, Roger Foster, said he had “every faith” his uncle was innocent of the claims and would have defended himself “vigorously” had the allegations been made in his lifetime.
“It seems to me a terribly one-sided program. How can anybody defend themselves if they are not here to do that?” Foster said in a recent interview with Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.
“It just seems to be very, very sad that these comments have come out now. If there was any truth to them at all, why didn’t they come out years ago when it actually happened?”
The controversy has prompted a wider examination of an apparent culture of sexism at the BBC in past decades that may have fed into abusive behavior.
Liz Kershaw, a DJ who started working at BBC Radio 1 in 1987, just after Savile left the station, described the environment then as “like walking into a rugby club locker room.”
She told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday that his behavior was an “open secret” within the station, saying, “round Radio 1 everybody joked about Jimmy Savile and young girls.”
She was also routinely groped by another radio presenter while live on air, she said – and her complaints about this were met by ridicule.
Kershaw acknowledged that the broadcaster would treat such a complaint differently now, but said that at the time she was groped its response had been out of step with public views on acceptable behavior.
The BBC has also come under pressure to explain why its own flagship Newsnight program, which looked into a previous police investigation into abuse claims against Savile last year, decided not to run the story. That police investigation was dropped for lack of evidence.