Savile Row

Sir Jimmy Savile
Sir Jimmy Savile (Photo: Beacon Radio)

So a lifetime of thinking there was something wrong about Jimmy Savile finally proved justified. Not that I’m claiming to possess what I have little choice but to call paedo-dar. Would that there were such a thing. I just didn’t like the guy. I’m not sure why – though that cigar didn’t help. There was something about his relentless funny voice and catchphrases. It seemed… I think it seemed a little lonely. Not quite connecting up with other people.

What makes a man want to have sex with adolescents – a fixation on what attracted him at puberty? The envious desire of age to possess youth? I think in large part the answer is simply, because he can. He feels a sexual urge, and an adolescent will allow him to satisfy it because obeying adults is the norm. Paedophilia is less a perversion of sexuality than a failure of conscience, the prioritisation of your pleasure over another’s trust.

Readers in various bits of the world may not have heard much of this story. Savile was a DJ from the UK who became enormously famous in the 70s for a programme called Jim’ll Fix It. Children wrote in with their requests, and the BBC would make them happen. A lot like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, except you didn’t have to be dying to get your reward.

It turns out that you did occasionally have to be molested by Jimmy Savile though.

This all came to a head after he died a year ago. As it happened, an investigative branch of the BBC had been making a programme about rumours of his paedophilia. But the Corporation pulled that – and went ahead with a glowing tribute to the wonderful work he did for many, many children’s charities.

There isn’t too much wrong on the face of that. It’s not a huge lapse in journalistic integrity to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who’s just died. But the BBC had another year after his death to investigate the rumours. And the forty years before. In the end it was rival broadcaster ITV that broke the story, leaving us with the impression that the BBC were unwilling to entertain doubts about one of their own.

You can understand that unwillingness when you think about it. Savile was hardly charismatic, more odd- than good-looking, not really talented in any noticeable way. What made him a star was the big budgets that the BBC spent on programme ideas that gave him a never-ending supply of unsupervised contact with children. It must be hard for the Corporation to get its institutional head around the idea that it spent decades unwittingly but quite literally pandering for a child abuser.