BBC opens inquiry into Savile sex abuse case
Published: October 29, 2012 09:12PM
Updated: October 29, 2012 09:12PM

London • The British Broadcasting Corp. said on Monday that a former senior judge has begun an inquiry into the corporation’s “culture and practices” that lay behind the sexual abuse scandal surrounding the late television host Jimmy Savile.

The inquiry opened on the first anniversary of Savile’s death at age 84 and a day after the British police, widening the scandal, arrested a former pop star in connection with the case.

The Metropolitan Police arrested Paul Gadd, better known as Gary Glitter from the 1970s heyday of glam rock, who is a convicted pedophile. Gadd’s arrest followed accusations that he abused a teenage girl on the premises of the BBC. He was released on bail late Sunday after he was questioned in a London police station.

Since the British television station ITV broadcast a documentary about Savile earlier this month, some 300 people have come forward claiming that they were abused by the outlandish television star. They described a depraved environment in Savile’s dressing room at the BBC studios where teenage girls were molested by Savile and others, including Gadd.

The investigation by Dame Janet Smith, a former appeals court judge, is one of two that the BBC has commissioned into the scandal.

The other by Nick Pollard, a former head of the rival Sky News, is looking specifically into a decision last December by an editor at the BBC to cancel an investigation of Savile’s misconduct at a time when other sections of the corporation were planning Christmastime tributes to him.

Both Smith’s inquiry and the investigation by Pollard are supposed to be independent of BBC control. Speaking of the growing number of accusations, Smith said in a radio interview last week that “it seems that the material is growing by the day” and she did not know how long her examination would take.

The case has shocked the nation and shone an intense spotlight on the BBC. Nagging questions remain there about why the investigation by the “Newsnight” program was abruptly canceled, and how much BBC executives knew about serious allegations that one of its stars had engaged in widespread sexual molestation in the 1970s and 1980s.

The BBC’s response to the scandal has fed into Britain’s political contest, with the Labour opposition calling for a full independent inquiry while the dominant Conservatives are resisting the idea.