Thursday 22 March 2018

Tony Blackburn claims the BBC has 'hung me out to dry'

Tony Blackburn said the BBC has "hung me out to dry" and is taking legal action after he was sacked by the corporation.

BBC director-general Lord Hall said the veteran DJ was fired because his evidence to the Jimmy Savile sex abuse inquiry "fell short" of the standards demanded.

Blackburn, 73, who has accused the corporation of making him a "scapegoat", denied in evidence that he had ever been made aware by the BBC of a complaint against him by a teenager in 1971 even though the corporation told the inquiry he had been.

Dame Janet Smith, in her inquiry report, said she "preferred" the evidence that Blackburn was in fact interviewed by BBC officials about the complaint despite his denial.

In a statement, Blackburn said: "I have listened to what has been said by Tony Hall and others today in connection with the publication of the Dame Janet Smith Report.

"I repeat what I told Dame Janet when I voluntarily gave evidence to assist her and the BBC. What I said in my earlier statement regarding the alleged meetings with Brian Neill QC and Bill Cotton Junior 45 years ago still stands.

"Given Dame Janet Smith's concerns of a culture of fear in coming forward at the BBC, the fact that I have been scapegoated for giving my honest account and best recollections of those events 45 years ago - which I felt was a whitewash - what whistle-blower at the BBC would ever come forward when they see the way they have hung me out to dry?

"Sadly, today's news agenda should have been about the survivors of abuse carried out within the BBC but, by sacking me, they have managed to take the focus off those who have suffered so much.

"My lawyers are now considering all statements made by the BBC about me today and we will be taking action."

The 1971 allegation, which Blackburn has strenuously denied, was that he "seduced" teenager Claire McAlpine after inviting her back to his flat following a recording of Top Of The Pops.

In an earlier statement, Blackburn said he had been told that the girl's mother told the BBC, a few weeks after her initial complaint, that Claire had withdrawn the allegation.

Blackburn also said Dame Janet's report made no suggestion that he was guilty of misconduct with the teenager, nor did a coroner's inquest or a subsequent police inquiry into her death after she took her own life.

But Lord Hall said the corporation had "parted company" with Blackburn, referred to as A7 in the report, because of his evidence to the inquiry.

Asked why the BBC sacked the DJ, Lord Hall said: "Look, put this in context. This is one of the most important inquiries in the BBC's history. And that has put an even greater responsibility on everyone who took part in that inquiry to co-operate fully and to be open.

"So many survivors and witnesses have honestly and openly co-operated fully and at great personal cost to themselves.

"As Dame Janet has said, she's rejected his evidence, and she has explained very clearly why.

"I have to take that extremely seriously. My interpretation of that is that Tony Blackburn fell short of the standards of evidence that such an inquiry demanded.

"I am making no judgment or accusations about events or behaviours about what happened in the past, but simply about what he's done now and what he was doing in front of this really crucial inquiry."

Responding to repeated questioning over Blackburn, Lord Hall added: "I'm quite clear that I am making a judgment about how someone has engaged with this seriously important inquiry.

"I am sure that all of us who have been through the 1,000 pages are probably overwhelmed by what we hear about the nature of the seriousness of what they have said and also the cultural response of the BBC.

"And that's why my decision was my decision. I'm taking a position about the standards of behaviour I expect from everyone working at the BBC now."

In Dame Janet's report, she said: "For the sake of completeness, I should make it clear at this stage that I have not attempted to make any judgment about the allegation involving A7 and Claire McAlpine.

"The question does not fall within my terms of reference. My legitimate interest in this matter relates only to what can be inferred about the BBC's culture and practices from the way in which the matter was investigated by the BBC."

Press Association

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