Editorial: Savile - a stick to beat the BBC with


There is certainly no shortage of issues in the Jimmy Savile scandal for which the BBC deserves criticism.

It is indisputable that the Corporation has mishandled the matter in the present, and faces deeply damaging indictments of its past culture and practices. But justified censure on specific issues – the apparent lack of grip of the Director-General, say – is increasingly being drowned out by the comprehensive trashing of the Corporation by its long-standing political and commercial opponents. Such self-interest helps no one.

The grubby political fingerprints are most obvious on some of the recent media coverage. Relishing the opportunity to put the boot in, traditionally hostile BBC rivals have rushed to rehearse favourite gripes on everything from management structures to editorial values under the guise of righteous indignation.

More disquieting still, the BBC's independence has now been dragged into the dispute. Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, may have slapped down the Culture Secretary's pointedly public censure of the BBC Director-General's performance at the Commons Culture Committee on Tuesday. But the genie will be hard to return to the bottle. And with a Tory MP now accusing Lord Patten of "corporate arrogance", and hinting that both he and George Entwistle may have to "fall on their swords", the sense that the Savile scandal is taking on a political life of its own is only growing.

It is time for some proportion. Of course, the possibility of a cover-up must be fully explored. But the real issue here is the crimes committed by Savile (and possibly others). And although the revelations so far reflect appallingly on the BBC's past, they are at least as much an exemplar of wider social issues around sexual abuse. After all, this is no isolated incident in either time or place, as the recent case of girls groomed for sex in Rochdale so grimly illustrates.

It is here, then, that attention must focus. Turning the Savile affair into open season on the BBC will not stop its like happening again.