Janet Smith’s review: ‘testosterone-laden’ show masked presenter’s assaults on girls
Jimmy Savile hid his abuse of girls while working as a presenter on Top of the Pops in “plain sight”, Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry finds.
The retired judge says that the programme’s “testosterone-laden atmosphere” masked Savile’s predatory sexual behaviour towards girls in the audience. “Child protection was simply not a live issue,” she writes.
“It was nobody’s responsibility to look after the welfare of young members of the audience.”
“Savile always used to choose the girls and boys he wanted close to him on the podium, instead of letting the director or floor manager choose them” – TOTP producer/director, cited in Smith report
Smith sets out her conclusions about the late Savile’s activities on Top of the Pops in the draft report of her “review” – leaked to Exaro – of Savile’s sexual assaults at the BBC. Savile presented TOTP’s first programme in 1964.
She thinks that no one in senior management was aware of Savile’s abuse of young people on Top of the Pops despite serious concerns of many staff members.
An assistant floor manager from 1969 to 1971 “felt uncomfortable about aspects of the programme.”
Smith explains his concerns: “The way the young girls were photographed from a low angle so that a good deal of leg was showing; also the way in which the audience, mainly girls, were herded about the studio ‘like cattle’; the lascivious way in which Savile used to look at the girls on camera and the way in which he got them to come very close to him on the podium; also that he would see young girls going down to the basement (where the group dressing rooms were) after the show instead of leaving the premises.”
A floor manager between 1971 and 1972 heard rumours that Savile liked young girls of about 15 or 16, Smith writes.
“He would see Savile arrange for particular girls to be on the podium next to him and he would be very close to them. He heard rumours that Savile took girls to his campervan. He saw that Savile’s dressing room always seemed full of ‘kids’.”
A producer’s assistant from 1971 to 1974 told Smith that she once saw Savile in his dressing room with a girl aged between 14 and 16. “He was not wearing trousers, only a tracksuit top and underpants. The girl was sitting down (possibly on a chair on the couch or day bed) and was not distressed.”
The assistant did not tell anyone, says Smith. “She was very busy at the time. Afterwards, she just thought that that was what Savile was like. She thinks that, if she had told anyone, they would just have thought it was funny.”
Another witness who worked on TOTP for two periods, in 1970 and then much later, “heard it said that Savile wore tracksuits so he could be ‘quick on the draw’. He thought Savile was lascivious and disapproved of him.”
A vision mixer “heard rumours about Savile having ‘hanky-panky’ with young girls but he thought they were not children and would be old enough to consent. The rumours were treated in a jokey way but with some disapproval as well.”
A TOTP producer/director in the late 1970’s “said that Savile always used to choose the girls and boys he wanted close to him on the podium, instead of letting the director or floor manager choose them.”
One witness told Smith that there was never any concern about Savile. “If there had been, it would have been handled quietly so as to prevent damage to the programme.”
She continues: “Apart from the regular members of Savile’s Team, I know of at least two young girls [both underage] who were invited back to Savile’s dressing room, where he abused them sexually.”
Smith concludes: “The most important and obvious reason why no one became aware of what Savile was doing was because of the general environment of the programme.”
“In the testosterone-laden atmosphere, where everyone was, in theory at least, over the age of 16, child protection was simply not a live issue. No one noticed what Savile was doing; he was able to hide in plain sight.”
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