Jimmy Savile: BBC 'aware of' nine harassment probes

George Entwistle clarified the number of allegations the BBC is looking into

Nine allegations of sexual harassment regarding current BBC staff and contributors are being investigated by the corporation, it has said.

It comes after BBC director general George Entwistle was questioned by the Commons culture committee over claims of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile.

Police have described ex-BBC presenter Savile as a predatory sex offender.

Mr Entwistle said Savile's behaviour had been possible only because of a "broader cultural problem" at the BBC.

The director general said there was insufficient evidence yet to say whether or not abuse was "endemic".

It is thought that the star, who was also a DJ and died last year aged 84, may have abused many people, including young girls, over a 40-year period.

A criminal investigation is under way.

In a statement, issued after Mr Entwistle's committee appearance, the BBC said: "As a result of the allegations about Jimmy Savile and subsequent contact from staff, former staff and members of the public, we are currently aware of nine allegations of sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct regarding current staff or contributors.

"Some of these cases have been passed to the police where appropriate, and we are reviewing others within our normal HR processes and procedures."

'Serious allegations'

Earlier, Mr Entwistle told MPs: "I'm not sure in the 60s and 70s... they [staff] would have felt there was anything they could do" about sexual harassment.

Analysis

The director general started strongly, expressing his horror at the allegations about Jimmy Savile and his sympathy for the victims.

But he had a lot of trouble answering some of the MPs' questions.

Some were perhaps unfair. He was asked who allowed children to be taken into stars' dressing rooms in the 1970s - something very difficult for a director general to answer today.

But he also struggled to answer questions later in the proceedings about what he was told about the dropped Newsnight report, and why he did not make more inquiries about what Newsnight's investigation was about.

The MPs were almost taunting him, accusing him several times of an extraordinary lack of curiosity for someone who'd started his career as a journalist.

But perhaps they were just trying to show they could be as tough on the man from the BBC as they were during their inquiry into phone hacking on the representatives of the tabloid press and News International.

Nowadays BBC staff "know where to go" over harassment complaints, he added.

When pressed on the scale of current internal investigations, he told MPs: "We are looking at between five and 10 serious allegations relating to activities over the whole period in question, the Savile period."

That included claims of sexual harassment made against people still working at the BBC, he added, although he was unable to say how many.

Mr Entwistle said it was important to differentiate between complaints of sexual harassment and those of criminal behaviour, such as underage sex.

The committee was told that he had ordered an internal audit of the operation of the BBC's child protection policies and would report its results to the BBC Trust in December.

Asked whether the BBC's existing child protection policies would prevent future abuse, Mr Entwistle said: "I believe we have good policies, but I am currently checking them to make sure they are as good as they need to be.

"As to Jimmy Savile, he is dead, so to that extent he has got away with it. But I don't think that can be said to be, or seen to be, the end of it.

"That's why we are asking Dame Janet Smith to look at this period as thoroughly as she can and understand how that happened, how managerial oversight did fail."

Mr Entwistle was pressed repeatedly by Conservative MP Philip Davies about the level of complaints being investigated by the BBC.

The director general was criticised by the Tory MP for not knowing, in detail, how many allegations of sexual harassment had been made against BBC employees past and present.

Mr Davies told the director general that he needed to "get a grip" on his organisation.

'Just the women'
Savile graphic

Jimmy Savile was a man with a high profile public persona, built on decades of broadcasting and charitable work.

He was seen as a flamboyant eccentric but is now accused of years of sexual abuse.

On Monday, BBC Panorama reported on the abuse allegations as well as the decision by Newsnight last December to drop its investigations unto the claims.

Conservative MP Therese Coffey said an email sent by Newsnight editor Peter Rippon last November, during the process which resulted in his programme dropping its investigation into Savile, contained a phrase that she found "chilling".

"Our sources so far are just the women", she quoted.

The MP questioned whether the culture had really changed at the BBC.

"That phrase, on the face of it, isn't in the least defensible, of course," said Mr Entwistle.

"I do believe the culture has changed since the 70s and 80s, but I'm not convinced it has changed as much as it should have," he added

The director general told MPs he was bringing in Dinah Rose QC to look at how the BBC handles sexual harassment cases.

"This is something the BBC simply has to get right and I'm not sure we have got it right in every respect at the moment," he said.

The Panorama programme, Jimmy Savile - What the BBC Knew, can be seen again on the BBC iPlayer.

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