BBC "Macho Culture" Blamed in Jimmy Savile Abuse Report

BBC Headquarters

BBC headquarters

The report in 72 cases of abuse by Savile, a former TV personality, found an "atmosphere of fear" at the British public broadcaster led to "serious failings," but it exonerates senior management.

A report on the findings of an internal BBC probe into sexual abuse by late radio and TV host Jimmy Savile has found a "macho culture" led to an "atmosphere of fear" at the British national broadcaster that led to staff failing to report abuse cases.

However, the report, published Thursday, exonerated senior BBC management, saying they were not aware of the abuse.

Savile, who died in 2011, was host of TV chart show Top of the Pops and a DJ for the BBC's Radio 1. Late in 2012, abuse claims against him became public, causing a crisis at the BBC. The fallout from the scandal led to the resignation of then-director general George Entwistle after less than two months in the job.

In late 2012, former court of appeal judge Janet Smith started working on her review for the BBC about the extent of the abuse and how the broadcaster could avoid similar problems in the future.

"I conclude that Savile committed many acts of inappropriate sexual conduct in connection with his work for the BBC," she said in the report. "Most, but not all, of the more serious incidents of rape and attempted rape and some of the more serious sexual assaults I have described took place on Savile’s own premises and not at the BBC. They were, however, connected with Savile’s work for the BBC. Usually, Savile either met the victim at the BBC or else he groomed the victim by offering the opportunity to attend the BBC before taking the victim elsewhere, often to his home or camper-van."

While there were widespread rumors and a number of prominent producers were privy to reports and evidence of abuse, they didn't report anything to their higher-ups, Smith wrote in her 1,220-page report. The report identified 72 victims, 57 of them female and 15 male. The first case of abuse cited in the report happened in 1959, the final one in 2006. Most happened in the 1970s.

Smith concluded that senior management and the BBC as an entity could not be held accountable for not acting, but she highlighted there were "serious failings in the BBC’s culture and its systems of communication, management and investigation." She emphasized that staffers in the know should have reported incidents and concerns to senior managers.

"No senior manager ever found out about any specific complaint relating to Savile’s inappropriate sexual conduct in connection with his work for the BBC," Smith concludes in the report. "If any or all of those members of staff had reported what they knew upwards to a more senior level, where action could have been taken, it is possible that Savile would have been exposed."

Smith cited what she termed a "macho culture" at the BBC, which some witnesses said was present in some (but not all) departments of the broadcaster, creating an "atmosphere of fear." She added: "There was a culture of not complaining" and a "deeply deferential" management structure.

The former judge said she was told this culture "still exists today in the BBC, possibly because obtaining work in the BBC is highly competitive and many people no longer have the security of an employment contract."

"No one reading the reports can be in any doubt that the BBC failed them," said BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead. "It failed, not just them, but the public, its audiences and its staff. It turned a blind eye, where it should have shone a light. And it did not protect those who put their trust in it."

She added: "On behalf of the BBC and its staff past and present, I want to apologize to the survivors for all they have suffered. I also want to commit to them directly, that we will ensure the BBC does everything it possibly can to prevent any such events in the future."