Can the BBC's reputation recover from the Savile scandal?

A coruscating 1,000-page, three-volume report by Dame Janet Smith laid bare the "culture of fear" at the BBC, which allowed sexual predators Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall to prey on more than 90 victims over five decades.

Imagine that report had been written about a FTSE-100 company, not the nation’s broadcaster. Could it survive such a scandal? Would its reputation ever recover?

Victims’ relatives were quick to dismiss the £6.5m report as "an expensive whitewash" yet the truth is the BBC won’t suffer long-term reputational damage.

Partly that’s because the allegations were largely historic, making it easier for the BBC’s leadership team to distance themselves from the failings of junior or middle managers who either knew about the abuse, suspected it or should have known but failed to take action. None of them are still at the BBC.

Partly it’s because director general Lord Hall handled the fall-out from the scandal adroitly, following the rules of crisis management: apologise, investigate, reform.

His apology was sincere; the investigation, which heard evidence from more than 700 people, was rigorous; and the reforms announced in the report’s aftermath promised an audit of complaints procedures and greater protection for whistle blowers.

Yet Dame Janet’s report raised uncomfortable questions, which will not go away. She identified the "deeply deferential culture" at the BBC, which made staff reluctant to report complaints. The deference was directed towards the "talent": the high-profile broadcasters who were the public face of the corporation.

In one sense, that deference has been swept away – the defenestration of Jeremy Clarkson, one of the BBC’s biggest stars, after he assaulted a producer was evidence of that. Yet in another it remains as entrenched as it has ever been.

The BBC is still in awe of the "talent", paying jaw-dropping sums to retain the services of its top broadcasters, many of whom could not command the same salaries in the commercial sector.

Dame Janet also found that a lack of co-operation – even open hostility – between different sections of the corporation prevented complaints reaching senior management. Has anything changed in that regard?

To many, the BBC remains a bloated organisation too preoccupied with empire building and a sense of entitlement.

The BBC may have weathered the immediate reputational storm from the Savile scandal, but the saga is not over yet. Veteran broadcaster Tony Blackburn, sacked after half a century at the BBC, is threatening legal action, claiming the inquiry cleared him of an allegation he seduced a 15-year-old girl. That could be an ugly, drawn-out and expensive case.

In the aftermath of Savile, the BBC seems in a state of moral confusion. Its conduct in the Cliff Richard case, colluding with the police to film a raid on the singer’s home even before he had been arrested, let alone charged with any crime, was strongly criticised by MPs and in an independent police review.

It’s safe to say we haven’t heard the last of that one yet.

Tim Jotischky is a senior consultant at PHA Media and a former editor of Metro and deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph

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