Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

So, who's laughing now at BBC over Savile's vile acts?

Open. Secret. The two words have coloured the Savile affair since ITV's Exposure documentary revealed the scale of the DJ's sexual predation. Dozens knew that Savile was routinely taking advantage of his position. Or rather, they made damn sure they were never put in the hideous position of absolutely, positively, conclusively knowing.

As the Panorama documentary made clear, the truth didn't come as a thunderclap. Employees found Savile in inappropriate situations with underage girls in dressing rooms. They saw 12-year-old girls in bed in his caravan, or had business meetings when Savile was accompanied by young girls.

The man admitted in his autobiography to spending a night with an underage girl. Still the BBC saw fit to do ... nothing. Well, not quite nothing. Asked by BBC management if he was having sex with underage girls, Savile denied it - and that was that.

We're told the 1970s and 80s were a different era when "chasing a bit of young stuff" wasn't as big a deal as it is today. (Though not to everyone - as the now notorious text about Savile sent to Good Morning Ulster on Friday and sensationally read out by Karen Patterson testifies. As does the traction that audio clip has on the Internet, where it is the source of much misplaced and tasteless merriment among the chatterati.)

The mores of the 70s and 80s as regards paedophilia were no different to now - as anyone who recalls the destruction of Corrie's completely innocent Peter Adamson will know. What was true then, though, and is still true now is that the instinct among the wealthy and famous and those who wannabe like them is to protect the wealthy and famous.

Add to that the music thing - it's only rock and roll. The genre encourages the sexualisation of young people, children even, to sell units. It always has done, from bobbysoxers to Beatlemania. Groupies are the staple of music business legend - and they still are often underage.

The fact is the taste of famous and respected men for young girls was very well known and was glossed over.

John Peel's reputation has escaped the Savile Effect for his relationships with young women. Bill Wyman has joined up with the other Stones for the reunion concerts despite famously beginning a relationship with Mandy Smith when she was 13.

Good old Pete Townshend, fresh from the Olympics, is promoting his new autobiography despite being cautioned by police for his 'research' on child sex internet sites.

These weren't secrets. These were headline news items. It took Savile's death to unleash the public allegations, because for all the prying scandals surrounding the media in recent years, no one would risk 'outing' someone as famous and respected as Sir Jimmy Savile.

What is shocking is that nobody in the BBC even told Savile to stop mauling young women on ToTP. No, there was a corporate investment in not asking questions. Groping women was par for the course at the Beeb. As presenter Sally James made clear at the weekend, victims were pooh-poohed and made to feel humourless prudes.

So, the bastion of liberal opinion colluded in the sacrifice of young girls to the whims of their oh-so-right-on stars, the new aristocracy the Corporation had helped to create.

Now the liberal intelligentsia, with its shunning of broadcasting thresholds and its 'pushing the envelope of taste' and its dragging TV into a sump of self-indulgence, has been left exposed.

In this decade, it took a national outcry to dislodge Ross and Brand. Andrew Marr can be photographed with his hand down the trousers of a woman who is not Mrs Marr and resume his high profile role without any apparent sanction. And Marr labours in current affairs, not showbiz.

The public school lefties of the BBC got their wish. Appropriately, it seems to have been like a 70s builder's yard with Page 3 pictures on the walls and the air vibrating to the twanging of bra straps - all "in good fun" of course.

As the national broadcaster faces its biggest crisis, though, no one, bar the odd crude texter to Radio Ulster, is laughing now.

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