The allegations emerging around Jimmy Savile are absolutely horrifying. My thoughts are with those affected and their families who have suffered in silence for many decades.
I believe that it is absolutely right that the BBC asked for the police to first and foremost investigate these allegations, and that they have waited to act - on the advice of the police - before launching their own inquiries. It is essential that this police inquiry is not disrupted.
The BBC is a globally admired British institution and has a unique place in our cultural life. As such it is imperative that it behaves in a manner that makes it worthy of the public’s ongoing trust and confidence.
Both the Prime Minister and I said last week that we believed the BBC should investigate these very serious allegations. The BBC Trust is there to represent the interests of Licence Fee payers, it is they that must investigate these matters and they that must rectify them.
Following their board meeting, I called both the Director General and Chair of the Trust to underline how vital it is to have a clear terms of reference in place and for there to be an announcement of who will chair the inquiries as soon as possible.
From those conversations I am now confident that both the BBC and the BBC Trust are taking these allegations very seriously indeed.
The BBC has launched three separate areas of investigation.
- The first review will look into the allegations that an item on Savile was inappropriately pulled from Newsnight. It will be led by a completely independent figure, with editorial expertise.
- The second review, to be undertaken when the police advise it is appropriate to do so, will focus on Jimmy Savile himself. It will review whether the culture and practices of the BBC around the years that Jimmy Savile worked there allowed him or others to carry out the sexual abuse of children.
- And, although the BBC’s children protection policy was overhauled in 2002, the review will also focus on whether its policy is fit for purpose and what lessons can be learnt. This will also be led by an external, independent reviewer who will be assisted by an expert in the safeguarding of children.
- An additional piece of work will look at the very troubling allegations of sexual harassment in the BBC that have come to light in recent weeks. The Director General will give further details of this later in the week.
These are very serious matters which have wide ranging implications for a number of public institutions and not just the BBC. It is now crucial that we understand what exactly went wrong and how it can be put right.