Tony Blackburn 'sacked by BBC' ahead of Jimmy Savile report

Blackburn alleged the BBC had decided to make him a 'scapegoat' and he would 'not allow them to destroy' his reputation

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The Independent Online

Tony Blackburn has been sacked by the BBC amid allegations of a cover-up after he and other celebrities were accused of “seducing” a 15-year-old Top of the Pops dancer who later killed herself, according to the veteran DJ.

A “devastated” Blackburn, who was the first DJ on Radio One in 1967, denied the claims and any involvement in the supposed cover-up in a statement published by the Daily Mirror. He said that he had “no choice” but to sue the corporation.

He said the BBC had “made clear” they were not sacking him because of misconduct and added that the teenager had withdrawn a suggestion she made in her diary that he had seduced her in 1971.

Blackburn alleged the BBC had decided to make him a “scapegoat” and he would “not allow them to destroy my reputation”. Now 73, he currently broadcasts on Radio 2 on Saturdays.

A review by Dame Janet Smith into the Jimmy Savile affair criticises the BBC for failing to properly investigate the claims made by the girl, Clair McAlpine, and her mother Vera, according to reported leaks of a draft version. Dame Smith is said to have concluded that the BBC should not have taken Blackburn’s denials at the time at face value and criticised the broadcaster’s failure to interview Clair.

In his statement, Blackburn said: “This week, two days before the publication of the Dame Janet Smith Report, the BBC informed me that all relationships I had with them were being terminated with immediate effect.

"I am told that the decision was taken, personally, by the Director General. Quite naturally, I am devastated.

“The reasons for the BBC taking this decision are that my evidence to Dame Janet Smith shows, I believe, that a cover-up took place - one that I had no knowledge of. This goes against what the BBC believe.

“In 1971 allegations were made by the mother of a 15-year-old girl whose diary apparently contained suggestions that she had been seduced by celebrities including me.

“I am told that the mother told the BBC, a few weeks after her initial complaint, that her daughter had withdrawn the allegation against me.”

Tony Hall on Savile abuse

Blackburn said Dame Smith’s report made “no suggestion that I was guilty 45 years ago of any misconduct whatsoever with this girl”. The coroner’s inquest and a police inquiry at the time also did not implicate him, he said.

"The BBC have made clear that they are not terminating my relationship with them because of any misconduct,” he added.

“They are destroying my career and reputation because my version of events does not tally with theirs.

“I was not guilty of any inappropriate conduct; my lawyers will take immediate action against anyone suggesting that I was.

“According to BBC records seen by Dame Janet, I was allegedly interviewed about the girls’ diary before her death in 1971 by a very senior figure at the BBC, Bill Cotton Jr. I was also, supposedly, interviewed by Brian Neill QC as part of his report in to the Payola scandal at the BBC.

“I have repeatedly told Dame Janet and the BBC I was never interviewed by either man in this context and the BBC records are either very vague or have, conveniently, disappeared. Regardless of these facts, the BBC is axing me after five decades of broadcasting. Sadly what is happening to me now seems to be entirely in keeping with the past BBC culture of whitewash and cover-up.”

Blackburn said he had enjoyed working for the BBC “immensely” over the last five decades and said he was grateful to “my millions of listeners”.

“Sadly, despite being aware of my evidence for many months, if not years, the BBC have decided to make me a scapegoat and have taken away any future opportunity I have to broadcast for them,” he said.

“Naturally, I am now left with no choice but to take legal action against the BBC. They have taken away a career I love and I will not allow them to destroy my reputation.”

A BBC spokeswoman said it did not “currently” have any comment.