Former BBC Radio 1 controller 'was aware of Jimmy Savile allegations' in 1970s
THE head of Radio 1 was aware of sex abuse allegations against Sir Jimmy Savile in the early 1970s, according to a former colleague.
Rodney Collins, who was head of press for the BBC pop music station at the time, has disclosed that he looked into whether or not newspapers were investigating rumours about the DJ’s involvement with young girls.
He said he was asked to do so in 1973 by the late Douglas Muggeridge, then the Controller of Radio 1 and 2.
His claims put fresh pressure on the corporation, which has been accused of turning a blind eye to repeated claims of inappropriate behaviour by the eccentric presenter, who died last year aged 84.
In the past week 11 women have come forward to say that Savile forced himself on them when they were schoolgirls, some in BBC dressing rooms, with more details emerging in an ITV documentary on Wednesday night.
The BBC’s Newsnight pulled a similar programme last year, claiming it could not substantiate the allegations.
The BBC has said it is “horrified” by the claims and that its Investigations Unit is to work with police in looking for evidence, but insisted that “extensive searches” of old files have found no record of misconduct allegations against Savile.
But Mr Collins insisted: “For the BBC to say they weren’t aware of anything, they certainly were.”
He told how in 1973 Muggeridge asked to see him “especially” about Savile, who at the time was a presenter on Top of the Pops as well as a Radio 1 DJ.
“He said ‘look, I have heard things about Jimmy Savile but I need to know whether they’re going to end up in a newspaper. Can you check with some papers for me and let me know?’
“All he told me was that there were allegations about a programme called Savile’s Travels that went round the country for Radio 1. Jimmy in a caravan and they used to broadcast from various places and go up to you and say ‘what record would you like us to play?’
“There were allegations that there were girls – underage girls – involved, maybe in the caravan.”
Mr Collins said tabloid and London newspapers told him they were aware of the allegations, but that they wouldn’t run them because Savile was popular and did a lot of charity work.
A BBC spokesman said: “The comments made by the former press officer reflect a conversation that he says he had during this time. The BBC has conducted searches of the BBC's files and has not found any written record of misconduct or allegations of misconduct by Jimmy Savile during his time at the BBC. We are of course keeping our searches for information under review as and when new information comes to light.”
Lord Grade, a former controller of BBC1, has also admitted he heard rumours and “question marks” about Savile’s conduct, but insisted: “I never heard anything that gave me cause to think we should investigate or do anything about it.”
Meanwhile the growing number of claims about Savile are causing unease among public authorities across the country.
A £40m project to turn the star’s former Scottish home into a respite centre for disabled children is in “limbo”, a charity trustee said.
There have even been calls for the Cabinet Office to posthumously strip Savile of his knighthood but sources suggested this would be unlikely as the honours cease to exist upon a person’s death.
Martin Beckford and Hannah Furness, Telegraph.co.uk