Arch­bishop clashes with BBC over its Sav­ile scan­dal ‘fail­ures’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Pa­trick Sawer

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’

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