Janet Smith’s review: show’s long-time producer failed to recognise ‘danger signals’
BBC1 continued with Sir Jimmy Savile as the presenter of Jim’ll Fix It despite several “danger signals” about him.
Roger Ordish, the show’s producer for its 19-year run, failed to recognise the warning signs, says Dame Janet Smith’s draft report of her inquiry into Savile’s sexual attacks at the BBC, which has been leaked to Exaro. But the retired judge is careful not to criticise Ordish in her report.
“Nobody at the BBC would want the Jim’ll Fix It ship to capsize”
– Dame Janet Smith, review report
Jim’ll Fix It, which ran from 1975 to 1994, arranged for children’s wishes to come true. Smith writes: “There were several factors, incidents and conversations that, viewed as a cluster and with the benefit of hindsight, clearly pointed to the existence of a potential problem with Savile.”
Ordish knew of rumours about Savile’s sexual interest in young girls, says Smith. “He heard Savile shout, ‘Legal! Legal!’ when hearing that a young girl was aged 16.”
She points to Savile’s autobiography, ‘As It Happens’, published in 1974. “He made it plain that he liked to have sex with lots of girls, not saying, of course, how old they were, but calling them ‘dolly birds’ all the same. He said a number of other deeply unattractive things about himself, not related to sex.”
“At the time of publication of this book, Savile had been a regular presenter on Top of the Pops for 10 years, a programme where he was surrounded by teenage girls.
“He had also started presenting Clunk Click, which was soon to evolve into Jim’ll Fix It, another programme that would entail contact with children and young people and which became a centrepiece of BBC Saturday early-evening family entertainment.
“It seems to me that any member of BBC staff reading this book would wonder whether Savile was a suitable person to host programmes of that nature and whether it was appropriate for the BBC to present him, in effect, as a role model for young people.”
Smith says that Ordish read it soon after publication as well as a series of articles in The Sun in 1983, which he must have found “deeply distasteful”.
“He observed inappropriate conduct with staff, such as hand and arm licking.”
Smith accepts the testimony of two researchers on Jim’ll Fix It who told her of several other pointers for concern about Savile.
Ordish never recognised “the collective effect of those concerns or pointers”, she says, because he never received any complaint of misconduct, they arose piecemeal over a long time, and he was unaware of any unlawful activities.
“His position as the producer of Jim’ll Fix It meant that his professional priority was to keep that programme running smoothly.”
“Jim’ll Fix it was important for the light entertainment department. It was highly popular, occupied a prime-time slot and had excellent ratings. Nobody at the BBC would want the Jim’ll Fix It ship to capsize. And the Jim’ll Fix It ship depended on Savile.”
“If Mr Ordish had made himself think clearly about the signs of Savile’s deviancy, he would have recognised them as danger signals.”
“Others may criticise him for this. I do not. I think he was a creature of his time and his environment and, to the extent that he failed, his was a very human failing.”
“Mr Ordish knew that there was a falsity in Savile’s position on Jim’ll Fix It. The falsity arose because the programme gave the impression that Savile had personally arranged for the young person’s dream to be realised.
“It clearly extended to the presentation of Savile as a good man, suitable to be regarded as the favourite uncle to the nation’s children. He was not and Mr Ordish knew he was not a suitable person to front a programme like Jim’ll Fix It.
“Mr Ordish now agrees that is so, although it never occurred to him at the time.”
Ordish told ITV’s This Morning after Savile’s exposure in 2012: “Jimmy Savile was a very clever man and he seems to have succeeded in hoodwinking a prime minister, the Vatican, the civil police forces, the NHS hospitals up and down the country and some members of the BBC staff, including me.”
Related Stories : Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread