Belfast Telegraph

Savile abuse scandal sure to put Leveson in the shade

By Paul Connolly

The media and the associated culture of the worship of celebrity are about to come under scrutiny like never before.

For the next five or six weeks at least, the Press, TV and radio are going to be the scene of intense navel-gazing.

Two giant issues are about to collide and they may even become conflated.

First of all, the Leveson inquiry is due to report, finally, on the “culture, practice and ethics of the Press”.

Well, the national Press, but we’ll all be tarred.

Recently, I have detected a growing change in attitude by the media and, in particular, the tabloid media towards Leveson.

The Daily Mail, especially, is now re-discovering its teeth after months of uncharacteristically tame coverage of Leveson and the issues that he has turned a spotlight on.

Incidentally, these issues range from the critically important — downright Press corruption, such as phone-hacking — to the, well, esoteric (Page 3 girls and bonuses to sub-editors).

The Mail believes the inquiry has, at its heart, a “metropolitan elite’s hatred of the popular newspapers that are read by the great majority of people in this country”.

I do have some sympathy with this view, but, at the same time, clearly something had to be done to clear out the inappropriate practices that were happening in some of the darker corners. Some of the impact of Leveson has already been positive.

The other big issue that will dominate headlines is the growing Jimmy Savile sex-abuse scandal.

I predicted last week that this could be a Catholic Church-style moment for the BBC and I remain of that opinion.

The Press failed to expose him and part of the blame lies with the UK’s strict libel laws.

But only part.

Clearly, Savile was a devious paedophile who used his fame and charity work to groom, bully and abuse.

Ten police forces are now involved and the number of victims is said to total 30. Frankly, this figure will prove to be the tip of the iceberg.

Savile’s entire life appears to have been structured around TV, hospitals, celebrity and access to young people.

He was active for decades; does anyone truly believe that such a devious paedophile would limit his actions to one child a year? Not a chance.

This scandal is just beginning and the BBC, the health service and, indeed, the modern cult of celebrity will be sucked into the vortex as a result.

Aren’t these issues — of child-abuse and alleged cover-up — not even more serious than the malpractices being probed by Leveson? An inquiry is needed.

Belfast Telegraph


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