Friday, October 26, 2012


When you see old pictures of Jimmy Saville and hear his catch-cry - "Ow's about that then!" - armed with the knowledge that he preyed on young girls, it's difficult to restrain utter disgust at the way the BBC protected their pin-up pedophile for so long. 

But it can be difficult for a columnist to evoke feelings amongst readers. It's not enough to simply assert Saville/the BBC was/is disgusting - you need to create those emotions amongst the audience. 

I reckon this op-ed piece from Allison Pearson (London Daily Telegraph) is a great example of the style . .  . 

Poor Liz MacKean. The Newsnight reporter must have worked so hard to get Karin Ward to talk openly on camera. Karin was one of several girls from Duncroft Approved School who were groomed by Jimmy Savile, with the promise of trips to Top of the Pops. Karin, now 54, had not spoken about her ordeal for 40 years. When MacKean and producer Meirion Jones tracked her down last November, she was suffering from cancer. How the poor woman must have recoiled from the prospect of a gruelling interview in which she would have to reveal shameful acts she had long suppressed. Somehow, MacKean convinced her.
A tenacious and compassionate reporter, MacKean will have done all she could to reassure her fragile witness. Jimmy “Ow’s‑About-That-Then?” Savile was dead and buried. Ward could trust the BBC flagship news programme to bring the truth about his disgusting behaviour into the open. Here, at long last, was her chance to be heard and believed.
As an interviewer myself, I can imagine the relief, even satisfaction, MacKean felt as the camera rolled, and Karin – the girl she once was still visible in that gaunt, sweet face – told of jaunts in Savile’s Rolls, and the sordid fare for those rides. There was one, yet more monstrous memory: 14-year-old Karin was in Savile’s dressing room at the BBC, which was “full of people”, when she saw a second notorious pop pervert having sex with another Duncroft girl.
Shocking hardly begins to cover it. MacKean must have returned to the office feeling confident she had her story. This was not only a scoop, it was a chance to smash the halo of St Jimmy of Television Centre.
So imagine how MacKean felt when she read an email from her Newsnight boss, Peter Rippon: “I think the key is whether we can establish the CPS did drop the case for the reasons the women say. That makes it a better story – our sources so far are just the women and a second-hand briefing.”
Just the women? That is how a senior news executive chose to describe Karin Ward and the other victims who had overcome fear and self-loathing to speak to the BBC. Four decades before, their protests had gone unheard because they were “only girls” from an approved school. Now they were “just the women”. Just the women who, as vulnerable teenagers, had been molested by a peroxide pied piper using the BBC as both cover story and brothel.
Karin Ward was devastated: once more, her story of abuse had been disregarded by higher authorities. I bet Liz MacKean felt like punching her boss. Who could have blamed her? In a leaked email, MacKean alleged that Newsnight’s editor had implied the witnesses were not really victims: “He resorts to saying, Well, it was 40 years so, the girls were teenagers, not too young… they weren’t the worst kind of sexual offences, etc.”
So, BBC icon imports girls from approved school and secure mental hospital to pimp them in orgies in his BBC dressing room. And a senior BBC news executive allegedly thinks the offences could have been worse?
Teenage girls. Not too young for obligated fellatio, but too young to be believed. Lacking credibility as a witness. Just the women.
It is precisely that kind of language – and the mindset it reveals – that led Keir Starmer, the Director for Public Prosecutions, to admit this week that a generation of girls was betrayed by the justice system’s “flawed approach to sexual exploitation”. It’s not long since we became aware of the CPS’s outrageous reluctance to charge a Rochdale sex-grooming gang. (Guess what? The 14-year-old girl who told on them “lacked credibility”.) Starmer said perpetrators had escaped for years because “police, prosecutors and the courts failed to understand the nature of the abuse”.
To that sorry list we can now add BBC managers. Honestly, you could be forgiven for thinking they cared more about having to pull their two-part Jimmy Savile tribute than getting at the truth. How can they possibly not have known what he was like? After Savile died, a year ago on Monday, a commemorative page was put up on the BBC website. As requested, viewers shared their memories of “Ow’s-About-That-Then” Jimmy – only, instead of a light-entertainment legend, they recalled a dark, devious pervert. The Savile tribute page was hastily removed. Shouldn’t that have been the first sign that celebrations needed to be put on hold?
On Tuesday morning on Radio 4, a spokesman for the Association of People Abused in Childhood said something that cut through the week’s lies and obfuscation to pierce your heart: “Children seldom speak out, and when they do they are rarely believed.”
Liz MacKean did believe. Acting in the very best tradition of BBC journalism, she did her research and found out that Jim had fixed it to escape prosecution. She put together a powerful story that vindicated Savile’s victims and damned their doubters. The fact that the story was not broadcast, as Karin Ward was promised, is a scar on the face of the world’s most trusted broadcaster.
I understand that, during the past week, Liz MacKean has taken “voluntary redundancy” from Newsnight.
Memo to Liz: please unvolunteer your resignation immediately. It’s not you who should be leaving the BBC. There are plenty more skeletons to come out of the Corporation’s closet. Police say they are now investigating an “organised paedophile ring” made up of stars such as Savile, off-screen staff and even politicians. Their victims deserve all the help and support the BBC can give them.
Karin Ward was right 40 years ago. Liz MacKean was right. Savile’s great-niece, abused by Uncle Jimmy at her own engagement party, said this week that she went to his funeral “to make sure he was dead”. Nobody understood how frightening he was, nobody saw the jester was a devil. Just the women.

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