Delay tortured survivors of abuse at BBC, say Exaro’s Editor-in-Chief and lead reporter
By Mark Watts and David Hencke | 25 January 2016
“Our publication forces much-needed transparency and accountability at the BBC for its extreme failures”
We published disclosures from the leaked report of the BBC-commissioned inquiry into Sir Jimmy Savile because of an overwhelming public interest.
The unwarranted delay in publishing the report unnecessarily and cruelly added to the torture of scores of survivors of sexual abuse by Savile and others at the BBC who had given evidence to the inquiry.
Exaro took the decision to break the logjam.
The leak of Dame Janet Smith’s draft report to Exaro exposed just how empty was the claim that publication was being delayed to avoid prejudicing ongoing police investigations.
The many witnesses to the review, especially those whose sexual abuse by Savile was linked to Britain’s public-service broadcaster, deserved to know what Smith had found at the earliest opportunity.
And so did the public at large.
The BBC is publicly funded through a licence fee that nearly everyone in the UK pays. The licence fee is even paying for Smith’s review.
The public has a right to know what the BBC is doing in its name – and with its money.
The BBC has a duty of care towards members of the public – especially children – who are on the corporation’s premises, as well as towards people who work for it. Smith’s draft report makes clear the extent of the corporation’s failure to protect children and young people who visited BBC premises or worked for the broadcaster.
The BBC failed to protect children and young people from a man celebrated by the corporation and put forward by it as suitable to present television and radio programmes that were especially aimed at such people.
The BBC’s board, headed by the then director-general, George Entwistle, commissioned Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge, to carry out the review back in 2012.
Smith completed her draft over a year ago. She sought final responses from those criticised and the BBC itself, and completed her report in May 2015. The report was then left in limbo on, as Exaro exposed, an apparently bogus pretext.
There was huge public interest in knowing about the scale of Savile’s abuse at the BBC, how extensively his behaviour was known within the corporation, and how those abused by him were treated.
The rest of Britain’s media seemed to agree with that proposition, given the extent of the follow-ups to Exaro’s disclosures – including the BBC itself.
Smith is very angry with Exaro for publishing, as we knew she would be, issuing three updates of rebuke within 48 hours.
But the public at large and many organisations need to understand what Smith’s review shows, that it is unacceptable to undermine witnesses as fantasists and conveniently dismiss what they say in order to protect institutional reputation, the lesson that such people need protecting not traducing. This lesson is plainly yet to be learnt.
Our publication forces much-needed transparency and accountability at the BBC for its extreme failures over Savile and other sexual predators at the corporation.
More and more evidence, much of it uncovered by Exaro, has revealed in recent years how lots of institutions have failed in the UK over child sex abuse. The BBC is just one of those failed institutions.
Inquiries or reviews have been carried out into failures over Savile at various public bodies. There were 45 reports into hospitals and the Department of Health, and another 15 into schools, children’s homes and the Department for Education. Every one of those has been published.
The last is the BBC.
The BBC managed to change the terms of reference for Smith’s review, and in 2014 commissioned a separate report on its child-protection and whistleblowing policies. It even managed to publish that report last July, ahead of Smith’s review, giving the corporation a clean bill of health.
Exaro therefore believes that the public had an overwhelming right to know just what Smith had found about Savile and the BBC at the earliest opportunity. Survivors of his abuse had an even greater right to know.
But it was long past time for the public to know the the disclosures that do indeed cast much-needed light on one of Britain’s darkest chapters.
Mark Watts is Editor-in-Chief of Exaro, and David Hencke was Exaro’s lead reporter on the Smith review.
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