BBC's Growing Sexual Abuse Scandal Shakes Britain08:18
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George Entwistle, center, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Director General, talks to members of the media on Tuesday. Entwistle told British lawmakers on Tuesday that it is too early to say whether sexual abuse was endemic within Britain's publicly funded national broadcaster. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
George Entwistle, center, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Director General, talks to members of the media on Tuesday. Entwistle told British lawmakers on Tuesday that it is too early to say whether sexual abuse was endemic within Britain's publicly funded national broadcaster. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A 1986 photo of British disc jockey and BBC TV presenter Jimmy Savile. (AP/John Redman)
A 1986 photo of British disc jockey and BBC TV presenter Jimmy Savile. (AP/John Redman)

Britain is trying to make sense of how one of its best-known entertainers could have sexually abused hundreds of victims - many of them young girls, according to police.

Jimmy Savile was the host of a popular children’s TV show on the BBC for years. He died last year at the age of 84.

The BBC program "Newsnight" was to have aired an investigation into charges that Savile sexually abused children. The editor of the program spiked the story.

Members of British Parliament want to know why it was cancelled. Britain’s Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, said "very real concerns" about the public trust in the BBC have been raised.

The head of the BBC, George Entwistle, told a House of Commons committee that he did not believe management pressure led to the story being shelved.

Yesterday, the BBC program "Panorama" aired the program on Savile.

"Jimmy Savile was a combination of Dick Clark and Captain Kangaroo,"  BBC radio host Paul Gambaccini, a former colleague of Savile's, told Here & Now's Robin Young. "He associated with members of the royal family and was given an knighthood. And - being a Catholic - he was given a papal knighthood. The questions are so large because here is a man who conned an entire society. He was hiding in plain sight."

For decades, Savile targeted children at hospitals, children’s homes and on the BBC’s own premises, according to authorities.

"Jimmy hung out at hospitals because that's where the patients are, " Bambaccini said. "There has never been a celebrity pedophile or abusive story like this. It's obvious why society could not add two and two together. It just could not digest this information."

Gambaccini, who is a well known personality himself in Britain, asked on his own show how widely Sevile's behavior was known.

"I said on air, 'Who vetted the knighthood, Coco the Clown?'" Gambacinni said. "If they had asked any of us, we would have raised an amber light immediately."

For several years, Gambacinni worked in the office next door to office for Savile's weekly program "Savile's Travels."

"The program assistants who would go out on his "Savile's Travels" program, in which he traveled in a caravan, would come back and report with distaste that  the caravan was not just the site of interviews. This was widely known throughout the profession," Gambacinni said. "People say to everyone who knew, 'Why didn't you do something about it?' Well in my case, I was recently arrived from America, I was still in my twenties. It would have appeared quite inappropriate and bizarre for me to to try to take down the premiere star in the British popular entertainment profession."

Gambacinni told Robin that news outlets should discuss their own involvement in the case, since Sevile's predatory behavior was an "open secret."

"There were so many parties involved, we have to investigate, how does one man con an entire society for decades?"

Guest:

  • Paul Gambaccini, BBC host and DJ on BBC Radio 2. He's a former colleague of Jimmy Savile.

This segment aired on October 24, 2012.

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