BBC slated over sexual assaults on audience ‘kids’ and response to one girl’s suicide
By David Hencke, Alex Varley-Winter, Mark Watts and Tim Wood | 20 January 2016
“I also have no doubt that some of the men (perhaps not many, but some) took advantage of their position” – Dame Janet Smith, review report
Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry raises evidence of sexual abuse of girls at Top of the Pops that goes far wider than Sir Jimmy Savile’s activities.
The draft report of the retired judge’s “review” of the late Savile’s sexual attacks at the BBC, which has been leaked to Exaro, explores evidence that he and others abused young girls from the audience at recordings of BBC1’s Top of the Pops. Some were underage.
Smith cites a producer’s assistant on the programme, which is also known as TOTP, from 1968 to 1971: “She said that the atmosphere on the show was ‘very laddish’ with ‘risque humour’ and ‘manhandling’.”
“She said that she did not feel responsible for the girls in the participating audience. She was certain that people would sometimes have sex in dressing rooms.”
“Also, she knew that disc-jockeys tended to have very young girlfriends; that was the world they were mixing in and it ‘went with the territory’. She added that ‘it was very difficult to tell… who was 15 and who wasn’t. Who was underage and who wasn’t.’”
In this third package of pieces, Exaro today reveals how Smith’s draft report:
- slams BBC management over its response to the suicide of a 15-year-old girl from the TOTP audience after allegedly being “seduced” by a DJ;
- blasts BBC bosses for a “manifestly inadequate” investigation into claims that a TOTP photographer took “pornographic” pictures of girls from audiences at recordings;
- condemns the BBC for enabling Savile to hide his abuse of “kids” while working as a presenter on Top of the Pops in “plain sight”;
- criticises a former controller of Radio 1 for failing to realise the risk posed by Savile to the BBC’s reputation;
- dismisses an independent investigation that cleared TOTP of a wide range of allegations, made against it in 1971 by the News of the World, of “moral danger” to girls at the recordings.
In two more packages of pieces today, Smith says that the BBC failed to spot public warning signs even though these initially blocked a knighthood for Savile.
Exaro’s disclosures from the report also show that the BBC has known of Smith’s devastating criticisms for over a year.
The BBC had three “wake-up calls” about Top of the Pops, mainly as a result of stories published in the News of the World, Smith says.
The BBC carried out internal investigations, she writes, “but it does not appear to me that these investigations evinced any real concern for the welfare of the young audience. My impression is that they were designed to dampen the problem down rather than get to the bottom of it.”
In what is bound to be the death knell to attempts by the BBC to revive Top of the Pops, Smith delivers a damning indictment of the programme’s sleazy history.
“My conclusion is that at least during the 1970’s and 1980’s (and possibly before and after that period) young girls attending Top of the Pops were at risk of moral danger,” she says.
“The format of the show brought young people into unsupervised contact with older men in circumstances where it was easy for them to make arrangements that would lead to inappropriate sexual contact. The atmosphere on the show was exciting and ‘testosterone laden’.
“I have no doubt that some of the young audience were impressionable and over-excited. I also have no doubt that some of the men (perhaps not many, but some) took advantage of their position.”
She continues: “Some of the young people may have seen Top of the Pops as a way of advancing a career in show business and have thought that associating with the men involved would help. I am sure many of them were willing to do what they did. But that is not the point.
“The BBC should not have been allowing this to happen. They knew of the risks and they did not take them sufficiently seriously.”
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