Jimmy Savile (1926-2011) is largely unknown outside Britain. In the 1970s he ruled light entertainment at the BBC - a baffling, charmless and untalented celebrity (aren't they all?) who seemed to have some kind of elaborate learning difficulty. He presented pop shows and game shows and that sort of thing, mostly aimed at and featuring lots of young people.
Following his death last year it became clear, as hundreds of victims emerged with harrowing accounts of his behaviour, that the Disc Jockey had for decades been abusing children. Some of them were in hospitals and care homes where he was allowed, for some reason, to roam freely. He was a very public figure and did a lot of work for charity.
Other rumours continue to circulate but are unreported by the media - about very senior Establishment figures for whom Savile allegedly (and quite plausibly) acted as a procurer.
Anyhow - the BBC yesterday published thousands of pages of interviews, the outcome of their continuing investigation into Savile's crimes. The journalist and presenter Jeremy Paxman had this to say:
The really important question here is: what was the BBC doing? ...what was the BBC doing promoting this absurd figure, this absurd and malign figure? And I think that this is to do with the fact of the BBC having been aloof from popular culture for so long. Suddenly pirate radio comes along and all these people in metaphorical cardigans suddenly have to deal with an influx… of people from a very, very different culture, and they never got control of them and I am not sure even now they have.
That is the reason there are ongoing legacy issues here too. But they... have never felt comfortable with popular culture, and they have therefore given those who claim to perpetrate it too much licence…
Is that why it's called the licence fee?
Paxman is, I think, on to something here. And there's no shortage of public figures today who are clearly corrupt and depraved in the same way that Savile was corrupt and depraved. My country's libel laws make a blogger's speculation an expensive business, so I'll stop here. But you'll know who I mean.