My Big Mouth: Is the media frenzy detracting from the real horror of the scandal?


From screaming headlines to tearful on-screen testimonies, the Jimmy-Savile-Sex-Scandal shows no signs of disappearing from newsrooms any time soon.


By Jemima Owen

It appears that Jimmy Savile was a paedophile.

Not only a paedophile, but a rapist who had sex with hundreds of vulnerable, underage girls. Quite a shock for the BBC – or perhaps not, as it turns out.

Unlike my parents’ generation, I am too young to remember the cult of celebrity that surrounded Savile throughout the seventies and eighties.

I knew his face and name from the odd Jim’ll Fix It clip appearing on TV Christmas specials, but that was about it.

As a result, I was not saddened by his death last year primarily because his fame was before my time.

One year on, he is once again a household name.

From the flippancy of my peers (“Seriously, how did people NOT think he was a paedo?!”), to screaming headlines, to tearful on-screen testimonies, the Jimmy Savile Sex Scandal shows no signs of disappearing from newsrooms any time soon.

It took me a while to get around to watching ITV’s Exposure and the BBC’s Panorama attempt at covering their backs.

By the time I did, I knew so much about the story, the alleged cover-up and the gory details surrounding Savile’s crimes that none of the content came as much of a surprise.

That is not to say the evidence that emerged in ITV’s documentary, broadcast on October 3, is not harrowing and utterly horrific – it is.

To argue that Savile is now dead and cannot face prosecution as justification for limiting the story’s media coverage would be not only naïve but also offensive to his victims.

In coming forward, they have undoubtedly raised awareness of destructive abuse that is all too prevalent.

However, the subsequent frenzied finger pointing, an attempt to hold some (living) person accountable, is now detracting from the real horror of the scandal – the abuse itself.

Most of the criticism, both from the public and the media, has been aimed at the BBC.

It is hard not to speculate whether there might be some Leveson-induced tabloid schadenfreude in the BBC’s fall from grace.

The Sun ran an editorial today entitled BBC On Trial while the front page of today’s Independent bellows “Revealed: Savile Investigated for BBC Sex Attack in 1980s.”

The front pages of the Times and the Mail also feature the Savile scandal.

Clearly, the outrage is not unfounded: stories of bungled inquiries and production staff laughing off allegations or “turning a blind eye” are highly disturbing and should be brought to the attention of the public.

Esther Rantzen has been criticised for admitting she did not follow up on rumours at the time and her picture was removed from the NSPCC’s website.

BBC Director General George Entwistle also encountered calls for his resignation over abuse that occurred thirty years ago only 11 days into his new role.

And now even Downing Street has been implicated, with allegations that an “unnamed former prime minister” was linked to a paedophile ring.

Hospitals, charities and even morgues where Savile worked are now conducting independent enquiries – and rightly so – yet amid all of this, what help are Savile’s victims receiving?

Well, one might argue that they are no longer suffering in silence.

The silver lining of this very dark cloud could potentially be that other children do not have to suffer like those who were abused by Savile.

However, coverage of four members of a paedophile ring “smashed” by the Metropolitan police late last year being jailed indefinitely on October 15 was remarkably sparse in comparison.

Surely that is the sort of news that should be making the front pages – those who commit sex crimes facing justice for their crimes.

Sadly, it seems the appetite of today is for gross scandal, not just retribution.

Last month, when Megan Stammers went missing after running off to France with her teacher, her story entirely eclipsed that of another fifteen-year-old who had been systematically abused for years by paedophiles in Rochdale.

Some news stories are more interesting, more salacious, more scandalous than others.

But when it comes to sex criminals, the principle focus should be on helping the victims and prosecuting the perpetrators, not selectively covering the stories that most excite our need for gossip.

With regards to Savile and the BBC, it seems everyone is now an expert on what should have been done, by who, and when.

By all means, let the experts carry out their job and call to task those who should be held accountable, whether for collaboration or negligence.

By all means, offer the victims counselling and help them raise awareness. Their voices have been supressed for decades and they do, of course, need and deserve to be heard.

But if press and police alike are truly interested in stamping out these terrible crimes against children then perhaps our focus should be on catching those who are still at large now, not dropping more token names into the pile of Savile’s dirty laundry.

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