BBC rocked by claims it 'buried Jimmy Savile sex abuse claims to save its reputation’
THE BBC shelved a Newsnight investigation into allegations that Sir Jimmy Savile sexually abused a teenage girl in his dressing room at Television Centre, it has emerged.
The woman claimed that the presenter molested her when she was 14 or 15 after inviting her to recordings of Clunk Click, his 1970s BBC family show.
Newsnight tracked down several other women who claimed that Savile used his role on the programme to groom and abuse teenage girls.
Reporters on the current affairs programme were also told of claims that two other celebrities, both still alive, sexually abused girls at Television Centre in the 1970s.
The BBC had hoped to broadcast the Newsnight report in December, two months after Savile’s death, but bosses ordered that the investigation be dropped.
Instead, the corporation screened two tribute programmes celebrating Savile’s lengthy BBC career as presenter of Jim’ll Fix It and Top of the Pops, and also as a Radio 1 DJ.
The BBC now stands accused of covering up the allegations, which were detailed in The Oldie magazine, because senior executives did not want the corporation’s reputation to be tarnished.
A BBC News source said: “The extreme nature of the claims about Savile meant that the Newsnight report was going to seriously compromise the lavish BBC tributes scheduled to run later the same month.
“And second, the allegations directly involved the BBC, in that the woman who gave the interview said that she and others were abused by Savile on BBC premises.”
All of the women making the allegations were former pupils of Duncroft Approved School in Staines, Surrey, where Savile was a regular visitor.
Two claimed that Savile took them for drives in his car and rewarded them with gifts of cigarettes, records, money and places in the Clunk Click studio audience in return for “sexual favours”.
In 2007, Surrey Police received a complaint from a woman who said she was indecently assaulted by Savile at Duncroft in the 1970s. The allegation was investigated but no further action was taken.
Neither Surrey Police nor the Metropolitan Police have been contacted by the BBC regarding the fresh allegations.
A Newsnight spokesman refused to answer any questions about the report or to deny that Helen Boaden, the corporation’s news chief, was personally involved in the decision to kill it. “Any suggestion that a story was dropped for anything other than editorial reasons is completely untrue,” the spokesman said.
“The BBC gathers information on hundreds of stories and not all make it to air. In this case the angle we were pursuing could not be substantiated.”
Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, knew that the Newsnight team were working on the story but is understood to have played no part in the decision to shelve it.
Sources said that he was made aware of the investigation shortly before it was dropped, “but it was mentioned in passing at a social function and he was in no way involved in the decision to drop it”.
Savile died in October, aged 84, after a career of broadcasting and charity campaigning. The flamboyant star was one of the BBC’s most recognisable faces. He hosted the first edition of Top of the Pops in 1964 and the last in 2006.
In the early 1970s, he promoted the use of seatbelts with a campaign that used the “Clunk click every trip” slogan. The BBC retained the name for Savile’s first solo television series, which ran from 1973-74 and was a forerunner to Jim’ll Fix It. The Saturday tea-time show featured a mix of music and celebrity chat.
At the time of Savile’s death, Mr Thompson said on behalf of the BBC: “From Top Of The Pops to Jim’ll Fix It, Jimmy’s unique style entertained generations of BBC audiences. Like millions of viewers and listeners we shall miss him greatly.”