Past 'allowances' towards stars no longer acceptable, says BBC

The attitudes and allowances given to “talent” in the past are no longer acceptable at the BBC, the broadcaster has said.

The corporation has published its response to the Dame Janet Smith Review into sexual abuse at the broadcaster.

Dame Janet had said that celebrities had been “treated with kid gloves and were virtually untouchable” when she published her report earlier this year.

Reports by Dame Janet and Dame Linda Dobbs identified 72 victims of DJ Jimmy Savile – including eight who were raped – and 21 victims of Stuart Hall, over five decades from 1959.

In its response, published on Tuesday, the BBC said it would “continue to do more” to change its general approach towards its stars.

“The attitudes and allowances of the past toward ‘the talent’ are no longer seen as acceptable and we are encouraged to hear that there is a sense that our approach is improving, supported by some high-profile cases where members of talent were perceived to have crossed over the line and where consequences were felt,” it said.

“We are by no means complacent in this area and whilst we are encouraged by our staff seeing significant changes we will continue to do more in this area.”

The BBC has looked at its practices towards child protection, complaints and whistleblowing procedures.

Policies in place include a network of trained child protection advisers across the BBC, a bullying and harassment policy which explicitly prohibits acts of bullying and harassment and provides examples of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour, and rules in place that all under-18s attend audience events with an adult.

The BBC said that it was continuing to work with the NSPCC “on enhancements to our child protection strategy”.

BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said the corporation would “never forget the failures of the past and the horror of the abuse suffered by the victims of Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall”.

She said: “In February this year, Dame Janet Smith exposed shocking and appalling events stretching over several decades, which raised serious issues to be addressed today.

“The trust committed to work with the BBC on behalf of all the victims – or survivors, as many of them prefer to be described – and to ensure it acted on Dame Janet Smith’s findings and recommendations.

“Today, the BBC has set out the steps they have taken since then, and the steps that will continue to be taken in future. The director-general is clear that this is not the end of the journey, a position the trust fully supports.”

She went on: “Preventing abuses and institutional failures of the kind recounted in the report requires constant vigilance, a strong and appropriate culture and robust policies that meet the highest possible standards for child protection, whistleblowing, and reporting and investigating complaints.

“The BBC owes it to the survivors and to everyone it works with or whose trust is placed in it, to make sure these events can never be repeated. The trust welcomes and endorses the BBC’s report today and the clear commitment to this aim.”

BBC director-general Lord Hall said that the corporation was now a “different place” but that it was “not complacent”.

“A lot has happened since these terrible crimes first emerged. As Dame Janet’s review showed, offenders are often devious and cunning; they operate in all walks of life and often in plain sight,” he said.

“No area of society, profession or environment is immune. That is why we all have to be vigilant and have the best possible policies and processes.”

He added: “The BBC is now a different place, but we are not complacent and neither should others be. We hope our full response will also help other organisations and we will continue to seek to learn from them.

“As we move into the new charter period, I want us to be sure that the BBC of the future is always mindful of the lessons from the past.”

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