The Dame Janet Smith whitewash

by on February 27, 2016 in Youth and Community

After the scandal about Savile ‘burst into the open’ the BBC set up an inquiry into itself. The BBC appointed senior High Court Judge Dame Janet Smith to conduct the inquiry.

Dame Janet Smith is a High Court judge. She has already conducted an other important inquiry (into the mass murderer Harold Shipman). She is a Dame – the female equivalent of a Knighthood.

Her inquiry found that Savile committed abuse and that opportunities were missed to stop him. No. Really? She found that senior management did not know and could not have known about this endless abuse taking place on their premises. This, of course, was the key finding of the inquiry and why it was set up. This means that a charge of corporate negligence against the BBC is now unlikely. The BBC paid for a whitewash while pretending to be soul-searching. How unlike a UK public sector body.

This finding of senior management innocence is wholly implausible.

Recall how the BBC scuppered a NewsNight report into Savile after his death. [1] Recall that after his death senior managers exchanged emails talking about Savile’s “dark side” and “the truth about Saville”. [2] And just think about it – ‘rumours’ were swirling around Savile. Such that after his death one BBC investigative reporter after another had to line up and explain why they hadn’t done anything about it. [3] As one former BBC entertainer commented it is simply inherently unlikely that senior management had not heard these rumours. [4]

But the Dame Janet Smith inquiry whitewashes all this.

These British establishment inquiries operate according to a template. The template is: the inquiry can find that wrongs were committed by officials. It can make even quite scathing criticisms of these officials – though typically no one individual is named. But it has to exonerate the top echelons of the establishment. It can then happily conclude that lessons need to be learned and the people to provide management oversight of creating the new policies and procedures are.. the same top management who were in charge when the wrongdoing took place.

The people at the top of the BBC, for example members of the BBC Trust, who will be relieved (but not surprised) by Dame Janet Smith’s finding that the buck stopped at a middle-management level belong to the club of a few thousand people in the UK who are sometimes known as the ‘great and the good’ – people who run things, chair inquiries, are always ready to help out, and who are in line for medals and honours. The same small network of which Dame Janet Smith herself is a member. The ‘great and the good’, not surprisingly, act like a kind of mafia. No doubt there is their own omerta.

And this is why you know that nothing has really changed.

Now. If the BBC had really wanted the truth about Savile to come out they could have set up an inquiry run by, say, an investigative journalist, a good human rights lawyer and two sharp young barristers. Why didn’t they?

Notes

1. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/feb/22/jeremy-paxman-newsnight-jimmy-savile

2. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/feb/23/bbc-knew-jimmy-savile-tributehttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/chaos-and-confusion-bbc-forced-to-replace-senior-news-executives-following-damning-report-into-its-complete-inability-to-deal-with-jimmy-savile-crisis-8425581.html

3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2210987/Jimmy-Savile-fooled-thinking-saint-says-Esther-Rantzen.html; Also see: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bbc-stars-reveal-what-knew-7438245

4. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/feb/26/bbc-bosses-cover-tracks-savile-2012-andy-kershaw

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