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Jimmy Savile

LEWIS WHYLD, Associated Press

FILE - This is a March 25, 2008 file photo of Sir Jimmy Savile. For decades, Jimmy Savile was a fixture on British television � an eccentric, aggressively jocular host of children's shows and a tireless charity fundraiser. A year after he died, aged 84 and honored as Sir Jimmy, several women have come forward to claim he was also a sexual predator and serial abuser of underage girls. The allegations have set off ripples of shock � but not of surprise. There had, colleagues said, long been rumors. The main question being asked now is: Why did no one do anything?

Lewis Whyld, Associated Press

Scandal grows at respected BBC

  • Article by: CASSANDRA VINOGRAD
  • Associated Press
  • November 11, 2012 - 8:47 PM

LONDON - The bungling of reports that powerful Britons sexually abused children has thrown one of the largest and most respected broadcasters in the world into a deep crisis.

It's difficult to overstate the BBC's importance. Its influence stretches throughout the former British empire and beyond.

The head of the BBC's governing body called Sunday for an overhaul, which could mean many things for an organization that has long emphasized its public obligations. To know what it would take, it is important to know what the BBC is and the scale of the crisis.

What happened

Last month, the BBC drew fire after it was learned its "Newsnight" program had shelved an investigation into child sexual abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile, the broadcaster's renowned TV host who died last year.

Police say that since their investigation started they have received complaints from some 300 victims of Savile and associates -- and that some of the abuse may have occurred on BBC premises. Questions soon arose over whether shelving the "Newsnight" piece was part of a coverup or whether BBC managers had heard of but ignored claims of abuse by Savile while he was hosting such shows as "Top of the Pops."

Amid public outrage, BBC director general George Entwistle announced internal inquiries into why the "Newsnight" investigation was canned, as well as the BBC's "culture and practices" during the years Savile worked there. But then, "Newsnight" wrongly implicated a British politician in a sex-abuse program that aired Nov. 2.

The BBC didn't name the alleged abuser, but online rumors focused on Alistair McAlpine, a Conservative Party member. On Friday, McAlpine issued a fierce denial, and shortly after, the abuse victim interviewed by "Newsnight" admitted he had mistakenly identified his abuser.

The BBC apologized for airing the program, which Entwistle said he wasn't aware of. That stance drew incredulity from politicians and media watchers wondering if he was out of touch or inept. The criticism reached fever pitch, and Entwistle decided to resign Saturday. A day later, Chris Patten, the head of the BBC's governing body, called for a "thorough, radical structural overhaul."

How big is it?

Today, the BBC reaches a weekly audience of 166 million globally over multiple platforms. The BBC boasts 10 national TV channels, 10 national radio stations, 40 local radio stations and a website that averages 3.6 billion hits a month.

The BBC World Service broadcasts globally on radio, TV and online, providing news and information in nearly 30 languages. Its commercial arm, BBC World News, broadcasts 24 hours a day in more than 200 countries.

What's next

The BBC charter sets out that trust is at its foundation: "We are independent, impartial and honest." But public trust in the BBC has been declining for decades, according to polls. Entwistle may have quit, but observers say the BBC Trust, which ensures the broadcaster stays true to its public obligations, deserves scrutiny, too. BBC honcho Patten is expected to lay out plans on Monday for how to deal with the aftermath, and many expect more BBC resignations.

© 2014 Star Tribune