9 Oct 2012

Savile provokes dark memories, but also hope

How was it all those years ago? I joined the television industry from the voluntary sector way back in 1976. I came from running a day centre working with dispossessed and vulnerable teenagers in central London to a world in which alcohol and fast-living outstripped anything I had ever seen before.

In common with the rest of the industry the social centrepiece of the workplace was the bar. We worked antisocial hours and the bar provided the lubricant that seemed keep the whole thing going.

The on-screen people appeared to occupy a higher place than the rest. Women were few and lived what I perceived to be difficult work place lives. Affairs inside TV companies were commonplace.

Queasy questions

I have been recalling those days, provoked by the dark revelations surrounding Jimmy Savile and others in TV showbiz. I can’t pretend that Jimmy impinged much upon my working life. We regarded ourselves as a breed apart from his likes. But I do remember the queasy questions that surrounded his strange persona.

I remember too the way in which women were treated and alcohol was tolerated. Smoking was everywhere too. The office I worked in was littered with ashtrays. There were well known “anchors” who went to air effectively drunk. One in particular, who could not go to air without a drink. Women were regularly ‘sized up’, and spoken of in a way which today would scandalise any audience.

The past is a foreign country?

The Jimmy Savile scandal represents a reckoning with the past. But it also has something to say of the present. I know of no one who goes to air drunk. I know very few who would ever drink in the working day. Women are more plentiful in the workplace today, and I rarely, if ever hear the sexist remarks of old. Individual sexuality, if less commented upon, is still an issue.

But for the most part, three decades on, we should celebrate the reality that in our behaviour towards each other we have come a vast distance.

We have not yet arrived at that ultimate place of respect and equality, but we have come a very long way. I still hear builders on the sidewalk whistle at a woman, white vans honking their horns too. Once upon a time television lagged behind the populace. I dare to believe that we have caught up and may even have begun to overtake some in our treatment of the opposite sex.

I’m confident too that these days tolerance of the pedophile allegations against Savile and others would be properly investigated. The BBC needs to get to the truth of what he and others did three decades ago.

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36 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    This is one of the few times you people in mainstream media have admitted the true state of affairs (no pun intended). Well done and thanks.

    It seems Savile was as horrible as he looked and sounded. The sooner the truth is known the better.

    What it demonstrates is the dawning of reality for anyone who thinks they are special because they work in mainstream media and make a large unearned salary. Eventually the internet will see off that attitude entirely.

    But Ed Murrow’s famous 1950s warning that TV was in danger of becoming merely “wires and lights in a box” went unheeded. The result was – honourable exceptions apart – the last fifty years of commercialised monopoly television. The same thing had been visited on newspapers for a hundred years before. The disgusting, lying mess you see is an inevitable result.

    For a brief moment in the 1960s things promised to be so different. Now we have Rupert Murdoch and Jimmy Savile and all the rest of the corruption.

    And make no mistake – all you people in the media who have turned your backs on the obvious for years are primarily to blame. If you can’t face the truth about your own occupations why should we believe ANYTHING you try to sell us in your “news”?

  2. Christine Clifford says:

    The behaviour Jon describes was common in many areas of work until relatively recently. It still occurs in areas where there are few women. Sexual abuse seems to be a major problem when’re there are vulnerable people, male or female. We must all be vigilant and speak out if we want to make a difference.

  3. Tim Arnold says:

    Sidewalk?! Where are you – The Bronx?

  4. Zach says:

    Was it only at the BBC where bad behaviour, drinking and sex (illegal or otherwise) happened? Because that’s the impression that other media companies are projecting.

    Jon, I really do respect your journalism and C4 News is *the* only news programme I watch – but please, don’t just go down the route of making this look like an attack on the BBC. Perhaps an investigation into other media companies (and indeed yourselves) by your news team might uncover something – rather like how Leveson has shown that hacking wasn’t just the preserve of News International.

    Incidentally, I always thought that C4’s “Mini Pops” from the channels early days was a little suspect. Perhaps, in these more enlightened times, an explanation as to what that was all about?

  5. Old Raver says:

    It’s not a sidewalk unless you have shipped across the pond. We know where it is, and what you do on it. So we don’t need the name to remind us, which is why we call it a pavement.

  6. R Frazer says:

    Mr Snow,

    Like many people I am not entirely surprised at the revelations about Jimmy Saville and not at all shocked by the behaviour you describe that went on in the workplace in those days.

    People do keep saying though ‘things were different then’. Surely the laws weren’t that different? It wasn’t legal to have sex with a child in the 70s.

    The comments have reminded me of those made when child sex abuse in the Catholic church was revealed. Many knew then of the abuse and yet said nothing. It may be an unfair comment but I think many who had clear evidence of the awful things happening to underage girls by Saville and others stayed silent because of the impact on their careers and not wanting to rock the boat which is why they didn’t go to the police. They should hang their heads in shame instead of writing columns and speaking on panel shows about how awful it was.

    As you say it is good that times have changed and the recent sacking of presenters from Sky Sports for harrassment and sexist bullying is a positive thing. I just wonder what other dreadful behaviours of ‘big stars’ are still tolerated though because just like the banks, some are seen as just ‘too big to fail’.

  7. Michael says:

    I am sure the seedy media, who you are part of will just “close ranks”.Unless a proper police investigation is carried out to expose ALL of the guilty parties and suitably sentence them. The people who “knew” and said nothing are just as guilty. Sorry, but until the guilty and the ones “in the know” are separated from the herd, you are all going to be pasted with the same dirty brush. Take this opportunity NOW and settle things quickly and with as little stress to the victims as soon as possible.

  8. Joey Manic says:

    All these stories coming out make the 1970s seem like some horrific version of the movie Anchorman.

    It seems the 1960s precedence of speaking up about inequality and abuse deserted those in the 1970s.

  9. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Strange isn’t it that all these people who profess openess , honesty , work hard to safeguard children are guilty of shielding JS from the allegations, for it is protecting him and not the children.I cannot believe that no one has come forward whilst he was alive, yet everyone has bits of evidence and heresay.

    I am disgusted when lascivious males called females tarts, slappers and the like. They see them as a target for approaches which are of sexual orientation only. Where can youngsters understand love in these circumstances? Of course these male types would probably defend their own against similar. Everyone elses daughters are sexual objects except their own ( but then that is not the case all the time)
    There are cases where childrens parents don’t believe their own and justify the perpetrators of these sex crimes.

    I strongly suggest that all those who sit in positions of responsibilty get off their high horses and stop telling everyone else what they should do and do it themselves. Safeguarding children is everyones responsibility.

  10. Philip says:

    Savile was a pervert who should be reviled. But before we condemn everyone working in the same institution at the time for failing to speak out, we need to be certain about a number of matters. I worked from 1970 in a largely male organisation, which at that time was racist, sexist & most other-ists (& has changed a lot), but most notably included a number of powerful, even charismatic individuals. Affairs (often with young women secretaries) were quite common. But if anyone was going to be prepared to take one of these powerful people on, office gossip, rumour & hearsay wasn’t going to be enough. You would have needed someone to make a complaint. No-one did. You would need personal evidence of wrongdoing. I know of no-one who had such.So what should have been done?

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      Anyone with knowledge of sex crimes should be honest, open to the powers that be and above all should be accurate, not lie, not twist the truth and not cover up . Full stop. Too many worms around encourages the under cover slime to get away with it.

  11. Dave says:

    A couple of people have picked up on “sidewalk”, but it’s hardly the only Americanism in the piece (there’s “anchor”, which at least occupies inverted commas), and ‘pedophile’ (there’s an diphthong in the English spelling…))

    The perils of having worked across the Atlantic, one assumes.

    Which makes me wonder, what is the sexism like on that side of the pond?

    The version of US news we receive over here seems to be fairly traditional (verging on old fashioned) – exclusively white presenters, women wearing LOTS of makeup, and only reading the news when they’re alongside a male presenter (US female ‘anchors’ seeming to occupy the “in other news” slot more often than not), and so on.

    But obviously we only get to see a small minority of the news programming some of the major US networks put out, so I’m not exactly speaking from a position of experience here.

  12. Mudplugger says:

    Those at Jimmy Savile’s lunchtime ‘disco’ sessions in 1960s Leeds all knew the score – he identified a couple of ‘fresh flesh’, they willingly bunked off school for the afternoon, going home with him.
    No-one commented, just thought ‘Good luck to him’. The teenage boys were jealous of his evident success, the unselected teenage girls were jealous of those who had the ‘honour’ of being selected.
    In his defence, he was not a paedophile, in that he did not target very young children, merely girls below the legal age of consent – perverse abuse perhaps, but not paedophilia on my scale of reference.

    Clearly he managed to continue exercising his influence for many decades, apparently also in some institutional environments, whilst creating around him a powerful coterie of support which prevented disclosure until now. So why now ?

    That’s nothing to do with Savile himself, more about those in his close circle of fellow abusers – there were many, some in very powerful establishment positions, only too aware that, were Savile ever to be publicly accused, he would start to name names. So the ‘names’ made sure it never happened.

    Now that he is dead, he can be safely vilified with no fear that he would expose the others.

    Question is, will some brave media have the courage to name the others (because the media know who they were, as well as I do) and some are still alive ?

    1. Lynne says:

      Mudplugger, if you know so much about this and who the persons also involved in this are, surely you should be contacting the police yourself and telling them what you know and who these persons are, instead of pontificating on here. Do the decent thing and give them any evidence you have.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      is not part of the problem, adoration of so called”success” by young impressionable persons.Plus the mistaken belief that money is everything,both by those who have it and those who aspire to it by easy means.We read of it with the antics of our over rich sportsmen and puffed up so called celebrities,and see it in the mundane TV aspiration shows
      TV which was sold as a force for good and knowledge is one large disgustingly mannered sleaze machine,that is so bad it has to have an artificial watershed,before it can show its real filth to a sad nation that no longer understands good manners

    3. op says:

      Incase you still haven’t bothered to report your evidence. I’ll copy it on scotland yard. In the meantime I suggest you make an appointment with your gp so he or she can explain to you why having sexual contact with a minor of 16 or under is an offence that makes a person a peadophile.

  13. AMB says:

    I have another take. The likes of Esther Ranzen, a consumer champion on a Sunday night for nigh on a 2- decades, with a very powerful producer and husband, now asserts in effect she is ‘troubled about Savile’. She in duopoly with her husband could have reported concerns and it is a bit rich she now is championing ignorance.
    I may be naive about this but I strongly suspect the opinionated liberal Oxbridge élite of which she was a big player in the BBC, in 40 years of Savile’s BBC tenure, found his albeit uncouth delivery of self, something to leave to the executives of ‘light entertainment’ to address. Seeing her attempting a bite of one of Savile’s medals in a photo-shoot (albeit I do not have the date), suggests then she was not uncomfortable about him.
    As Victor Lewis Smith commented as a TV critic on the programme “Esther” “How long will it be, I wonder, before somebody sets up an Esther Line? For women who have run out of causes”. Paradoxically it could be said she did have a cause to investigate with teeth, rather then illustrating vegetables that looked like a penis? I do not suggest for a moment she did nothing to allay the climate of concern about Savile, but if she succumbed to the fake ersatz of Savile, despite her misgivings (the biting of his medal – when of obviously still marathon running); why subscribe?

  14. Spooky says:

    Somewhere among the archives there must still be footage of Jimmy Saville talking of his “Black Heart” to a small audience, be they children and or adults. I think it dates back to the 1980s, but am not completely sure. The only thing I remembered was the strangeness of the comment, after all he was at that time everyone’s favourite Uncle and a national treasure; only recently possible victims have be brave enough to share their experiences and suffering at his inappropriate behaviour (if proved true).

    However, as Mr Saville is no longer here to offer any defence, this case could stretch on for some time as there is a possibility of newer victims and/or witnesses if they come forward.

  15. AMB says:

    I meant to add a personal note about Savile namely:there was a feel about him that was ‘Saturday night in a dodgy pub’ ; the man who has been on his own all night – talking about his charity work, suddenly breaks off when an underage comes in, looking for her dad/stepfather and, he says he knows her and needs to get her home. Savile undoubtedly cut a pathetic figure on screen (as many now acknowledge): cold-eyed, emotionless (endorsed perhaps, in a Theroux) interview. Whilst I do not want to usurp the police investigation, why in 1990 was he given a Knighthood, when their appears to have been strident concerns about ‘JIm ill fix it’.? The political temptation or imperative to give a working-class man from Leeds (despite cold-eyed to anyone watching his mojo) was lost on Magaret Thatcher’s approval committee.

  16. Moonbeach says:

    The MCP was alive and well in the 20th Century but, thankfully, like the dinosaurs before him, he is heading for extinction. As a graduate apprentice in the Millwright’s shop of a major car manufacturer, I remember that the senior tradesman used to drive our team to the front gate each morning to watch the women arrive. Then we would have to stop on the way back at the various female dominated sections for me to be embarrassed by some of their comments (male and female).

    Nude pictures of women were everywhere and nobody cared. It was also a time when a sizeable number of men thought that ‘No’ meant ‘Yes’!!!!!

    Thankfully, those behaviours have been consigned to the dustbin of history and are rightly illegal.

    Clearly those people who were abused decades ago should have their cases investigated and the perpertrators should be vilified and/or prosecuted.

    But let’s keep some balance about this. Already police resources are being diverted to these ‘Cold Cases’ whilst there are ‘Hot Ones’ happening around us every day.

    I do not wish to trivialise what happened in the 60s, 70s and 80s but wonder what public benefit would be served by an expensive police investigation proving, if that is now possible, that abuse took place by dead perverts. The victims know the truth and thankfully now so do we.

    A Senior Policeman has already accused Savile of being a paedophile. Butm how much more do we need to know about his grubby existence.

    Showbiz in its broadest sense needs to clean up its act and not tolerate these abuses of power. Unfortunately, I suspect that it would still need a very brave individual indeed to take action against a so called celeb!

    1. op says:

      There are it seems possibilities that people who are still alive joined in this abuse so hopefully this is part of the investigation and people will be charged.
      No doubt though they won’t, as already they have named only one of these people. More likely in another decade or so there will be another scandal of the “cover up of 2012”

  17. anon says:

    Making a complaint often meant ostracisation , ridicule and even dismissal. I know , I have been there.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      So have I and brought about by powerful personel, however I would not change a thing!

  18. Sadie says:

    I want to know who recommended Savile for a Knighthood? Were they in on the ‘game’, or blind and deaf?

    1. Mudplugger says:

      The Knighthood was granted in 1990, under a Conservative Government – perhaps they knew what he knew and about whom, and that he should be encouraged to keep quiet about what he knew.

      Savile was also granted a Papal ‘knighthood’, on the recommendation of Cardinal Basil Hume – maybe that recommendation should be subject to similar scrutiny as to its provenance ?

  19. Spooky says:

    Be the allegations right or wrong, and it would appear they are leaning to the right at this point as portrayed through the increasing evidence in the media given by girls (now women) abused, and more recently testimonials surfacing from other sources, a fair and unconditional appraisal of all evidence must take place. Irrespective of feelings on both sides, justice must be done to ensure that if any sufferance on the part of an individual is lawfully acknowledged, but also that any remaining family members of the Saville family be left (even when required to give evidence) to cope with what might proof to some of them as astonishing and loathsome accusations.

  20. ep says:

    the saying ‘don’t speak ill of the dead’ comes to mind.

    im not saying these things did or didnt happen – after all how would i know, i never met the man.

    but it would have been better if these matters had been addressed when he was alive dont you think? its all very one sided.

    perhaps we need a new law – savile’s law?

    1. LIZZIE says:

      Savile always looked very odd and spooky to me and if I’d had children or other young people around him I would have said ” GET AWAY HE IS BAD NEWS !! The wonder of TV is that you can actually SEE what people look like and make up your mind “where they are coming from”.

  21. Alan Drabble says:

    Re J Savile. The police are saying there may be 40 odd victims. Well, from what I know about his antics in Scarborough it could well be 10 times that over 40 years. And you can’t do that without a gang of flunkies around you making it appear more kosher. Look at all the places he visited, assume at least one victim at each destination and you may be getting close.This story has some way to go yet if someone really gets hold of it.

  22. Blue666 says:

    Ok so now ever media organisation has covered why he could have got away with it through the 70s can we now move onto the 80s,90s,2000s ?

    Why is everyone jumping onto this 70s bandwagon ? I do not remember anyone saying I had to understand the 70s to understand the yorkshire ripper !

    Unless everyone in the media over 50 was running around groping young girls and are now running scared I fail to see the argument regarding Savile !

  23. Himinthere says:

    To be fair about the other side. At age about 17 in 1974ish I had a holiday job which involved making deliveries of cardboard boxes to shoe factories with overwhelmingly female workforce. There I was the “fresh meat” and had to run the gauntlet of their crude comments. These included speculations about the consistency of my semen. I was shocked but I’m not complaining. Just pointing out that when the opportunity arose the women could be as bad as the men. I think it’s just that there was less opportunity for the women. Less positions of relative power etc.

  24. Meg Howarth says:

    It now seems that BBC produced a number of tribute programmes to Jimmy Savile after his death when the allegations about his conduct had ALREADY emerged and the BBC2 Newsnight inquiry was underway. Former Channel 4 presenter Lucy Manning questioned BBC Director General George Entwistle (salary £450k: http://gu.com/p/3ab79/tw) this morning


  25. david thomas says:

    Your reporting on the so called need for the need to grow more food,had a the best and most honest and logical comments from the young chap who made the valid point about waste and deforesting ,which I and many others really concerned about feeding the world ,rather than those with short term policies and a vested interest in selling more chemicals ,gm for example which has caused as many of predicted a decade ago cause more chemicals to be used to tackle the giant weed resistant to the weed killings chemicals,plus there is nowhere in the world where GM has shown to be disease,drought or pest resistant .

    My other main point which I am sure the young chap would have brought if if given more time is that if these developing countries were not warring over minerals ,growing water hungry fad crops demand by the developed world thy could feed themselves many times over.
    Then the refusal of the World Bank to fund birth control needed and wanted by many of the
    woman ,instead billions of pounds and dollars are given in aid that went into the pockets of corrupt leaders who bought lots of arms[good for our GDP ] then more pictures by C4 and other media showing starving people ,asking the public to give more money,don’t you think it time to stop this vicous cycle,and tackle the real problem

  26. Coyle says:

    One of the biggest pedophile cases of yesteryear hardly raised an eyebrow and was played out in the glare of near condonation by the public. It was the Bill Wyman / Mandy Smith ‘affair’ involving a superstar sleeping with a thirteen and a half year old child. At the time in some quarters, it was deemed ok as her mother gave her consent but as charges were not even considered, it proves that legislators and indeed society at large, either turned a blind eye or maybe considered it fine.

  27. Prince Charles says:

    If anyone had sent in a comment about Jimmy Savile,to any CH4 blog,before he died,none of it would ever be posted.
    Now,what does that say about CH4?

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      It says more about the editors, than ch 4 persae.Like all other organisations they go with the flow. It needs a few to stand up to the ‘turn a blind eye guys’ and risk, as one blogger commented , ridicule and ostracisation.I expect quite a few of us have noticed or experienced truths and have been accused of becoming unravelled or have been the subject of the heavy boot stamping down on us.

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