Britain's BBC apologizes over sex abuse scandal

Mon Oct 8, 2012 9:06am EDT
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By Maria Golovnina

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's BBC on Monday apologized to a group of women who allege that one of the state-funded broadcaster's top entertainers sexually abused them decades ago, a scandal that has raised questions about the BBC's judgment then and now.

The man accused of using his status as a celebrity and prominent charity fund raiser to commit the crimes is Jimmy Savile, an eccentric BBC presenter who died last year aged 84.

Instantly recognizable for his shock of blonde hair, Savile was famous for his larger-than-life personality and for his love of smoking cigars, donning tracksuits and coming out with catch phrases that sometimes became part of the national lexicon.

The former DJ travelled around London in a Rolls-Royce and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his charitable work in 1990. When he died last year, he was buried wearing a tracksuit after his gold-colored coffin was put on public display in a hotel.

His reputation was called into question last week, however, after a documentary shown by the BBC's rival ITV channel aired a slew of sexual assault allegations against Savile, triggering a media storm that has raised awkward questions for the BBC.

On Monday, the BBC's new boss, George Entwistle, promised the corporation would cooperate fully with the police to investigate the allegations.

"The women involved here have gone through something awful and it's something I deeply regret," he told BBC radio on Monday, the first time the BBC had said it was sorry for what it is alleged to have happened.

"I would like to apologize on behalf of the organization to each and every one of them for what they have had to endure here."   Continued...

A tribute is seen next to the coffin of British entertainer Jimmy Saville as it is displayed to the public at The Queens Hotel in Leeds, northern England November 8, 2011. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis