Rona Fairhead statement on the publication of the Dame Janet Smith review

Date: 25.02.2016     Last updated: 25.02.2016 at 14.00

I am saddened and appalled by the events recounted here and in a few moments I want to address how we will aim to ensure we never allow them to happen again.

But our primary thoughts must be with the victims – the survivors of the abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall. Today’s reports lay bare the full horror of what happened to them. Those experiences can never be erased.

No one reading the reports can be in any doubt that the BBC failed them. It failed, not just them, but the public, its audiences and its staff.

It turned a blind eye, where it should have shone a light. And it did not protect those who put their trust in it.

On behalf of the BBC and its staff past and present, I want to apologise to the survivors for all they have suffered. I also want to commit to them directly, that we will ensure the BBC does everything it possibly can to prevent any such events in the future.

And I also want to record my thanks. We owe the survivors an enormous debt of gratitude for the courage they have shown in coming forward to share their experiences – their horrific experiences – with the Review team. Their bravery has created a vastly deeper understanding of the issues and I am confident that, from here forward, nothing will be the same.

We believe that these reports are clear, thorough and authoritative, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dame Janet Smith, Dame Linda Dobbs and the review team. We accept the conclusions and recommendations of their reports in their entirety.

We have published both reports in full and un-redacted.

It is transparently in the public interest to do so. The survivors and the public have a right to understand not just what happened, but how it was allowed to happen. Who knew what and why processes failed. And to have the confidence that the BBC is taking all appropriate action.

We need to restore the public’s trust in the BBC. We need to demonstrate – through our actions – that the BBC’s values are for everyone and non-negotiable.

For, as Dame Janet makes clear, these events happened in the past but they raise serious issues that remain relevant and need to be addressed today.

We fully support Dame Janet’s recommendation that the BBC Executive immediately reviews its policies and procedures on child protection, complaints, whistleblowing, and investigations – and that all of those should also be independently audited and published. It is important that this work also takes account of the variety of working relationships people have with the BBC, from freelancers and occasional contractors through to full time members of staff.

The plans that Tony Hall has put forward today represent a thorough response to this recommendation. The Trust will work alongside the Executive to ensure that the BBC takes all further steps that it needs to as quickly as it possibly can.

Dame Janet also makes challenging observations about the BBC’s culture. It is clear that the public expect the BBC to keep to the highest possible standards, but the BBC failed.  And Dame Janet finds the status given to celebrities, the BBC’s hierarchical structure and the lack of cohesion between its different departments present unique challenges which must be overcome if serious wrongdoing is to be exposed.

The cultural change that must take place has to be both substantial and permanent. The BBC must engage fully with its staff, listen to its critics and submit policies and culture to external scrutiny.

I have discussed this with Tony Hall at length and have no doubt that he is absolutely committed to achieving this.

He also recognises that for change to be genuine and lasting, it requires the active involvement and support of those working within and around the organisation. The Trust will do whatever it can to help the management achieve this change and, if necessary, to push them to do more or go further. There are long-term and deep-seated issues to tackle, but today’s reports provide a clear impetus to do so urgently and openly. To that end, the Trust will continue to pursue these questions with the DG, taking stock of his progress at each of its monthly meetings for the remainder of the year.

These events will forever be a source of deep regret and shame. Many people were failed by those who should have protected and supported them. Our commitment to the survivors and to the public is to ensure we do everything possible to prevent this happening again.