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BBC chiefs in the dock for Savile cover-up quiz

HARROWING accounts of the scale of abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile have aired in a documentary on the TV star.

Viewers were given sickening testimony about the scale of the abuse, including allegations that girls and, in at least one case, a boy, were forced to have sex with Savile in his car, his camper van, or even dingy dressing rooms on BBC premises.

"I'm so full of self-disgust. I can't believe that I did such things," victim Karin Ward told the BBC's Panorama show.

Predator

She described being cajoled into giving the presenter sexual favours when she was just a young teen. She said she should have tried to put a stop to it but "I didn't. None of us did."

The Panorama programme set out to explain why an earlier investigation into Savile was never televised.

The answer remains murkier than ever -- the BBC stopped short of accusing any of its bosses of a cover-up.

Panorama reporters put their own bosses in the hot seat over their role in the expanding paedophilia scandal, airing footage from a previously-unseen expose of one of the BBC's most popular entertainers and quizzing senior management about why they canned the bombshell programme.

Last night's powerful but often awkward broadcast centred on revelations that late children's television star Jimmy Savile was one of the country's most prolific predators, suspected of sexually assaulting more than 200 children over his decades-long career.

The scandal has cut an ugly wound through the BBC's image, made worse by the revelation that executives scrapped what would have been a hard-hitting expose of Savile's misdeeds last year.

Also bizarre was the fact that the BBC was effectively conducting a televised inquisition into itself.

One particularly striking scene involved a journalist bombarding BBC boss George Entwistle with questions on what appeared to be his morning commute.

"I've never seen an organisation do such a knocking job on itself," said ITV's Kenny Toal.

"Fair play to the journalists who spoke up against their bosses."

BBC editor Peter Rippon -- who stepped down temporarily only hours before the show was aired -- was hit by some of the hardest knocks.

Depressing

Under fire from his reporters, he was shown to have put out a series of misleading statements about the documentary.

Emails appeared to show he was enthusiastic about the expose at first, but abruptly changed his mind for reasons that remain unexplained.

Reaction was mixed, with some viewers criticising the BBC for not having pushed its executives harder. Others congratulated the broadcaster on a compelling programme.

One TV reviewer said that the program was "very thorough, compelling and depressing" and which he said showed the BBC "at its best."

"Sadly it was highlighting BBC at its worst," he said.

The scandal and the alleged cover-up have already drawn unusual criticism from the British prime minister.

"The nation is appalled, we are all appalled by the allegations of what Jimmy Savile did and they seem to get worse by the day," David Cameron said yesterday.

Tim Burt, a managing partner of the Stockwell Communications crisis management firm, said the BBC faces a major blow to its reputation at a time when it is entering delicate negotiations with the government about the terms of its charter.

hnews@herald.ie


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