Archbishop clashes with BBC over its Savile scandal ‘failures’
THE BBC and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, have clashed over the broadcaster’s handling of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal.
He accused the BBC of failing to show the same “integrity” over its failures with Savile as that displayed by Catholic and Anglican Churches.
But the corporation’s supporters have hit back, pointing out that the church has been accused of trying to cover up its own sex abuse scandals.
The Archbishop made the comments in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Today in which he was reflecting on changes to society over the past 60 years.
He said: “I think we are a kinder society, more concerned with our own failures, more willing to be honest where we go wrong. In most of our institutions, there are still dark areas.”
But when asked which, he said: “If I’m really honest, I’d say the BBC is one. I haven’t seen the same integrity over the BBC’s failures over Savile as I’ve seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England, in other public institutions over abuse.” That prompted an angry response from one group of six victims of abuse in the Church of England, who said they did not recognise the Archbishop’s description of “integrity” from their own “bitter experience”.
The group said: “Far from the ‘rigorous response and self-examination’ he claims, our experience of the church, and specifically the Archbishop, is of years of silence, denial and evasion.”
In 2016, the Dame Janet Smith Review into sexual abuse at the BBC identified 72 victims of Savile, who had been one of the corporation’s biggest stars during the Seventies and Eighties.
Much of the abuse took place in the Top of the Pops studios and other BBC premises, but the corporation missed opportunities to stop it and ignored warnings about his behaviour. Dame Janet found that an “atmosphere of fear” and a “deeply deferential” culture meant that senior managers were not told of complaints about Savile.
Responding to the Archbishop, a spokesman for the BBC said: “This isn’t a characterisation we recognise. When the Savile allegations became known we established an independent investigation by a High Court judge.
“In the interests of transparency, this was published in full. We apologised and accepted all the recommendations. And while today’s BBC is a different place, we set out very clear actions to ensure the highest possible standards of child safeguarding.”
A Lambeth Palace spokesman said: “Since the Archbishop took up his role, he has been clear that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be the highest priority and was one of the first to call for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
“The Archbishop believes this level of rigorous response needs to extend to all institutions, including the BBC.”
‘I think we are a kinder society, willing to be honest. In most of our institutions, there are still dark areas’