(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

The Whitewash of White City

Not a great day for those of us with a, shall we say, relaxed attitude to excellence in the workplace…

First comes the news that six Italian scientists have been jailed for manslaughter after failing to predict the devastating L’Aquila earthquake in 2009.

Leaving aside the frankly terrifying ramifications that one could potentially get banged up for six years just by ballsing up at work, the notion that ACTUAL INDIVIDUAL HUMAN-BEINGS can be called to account for science’s frailty in the fearsome, sadistic face of nature is a troubling one indeed. I confess I have not closely researched the full findings of the court so it is not for me to speculate, but I can only guess they must have done something pretty irresponsible – like spilling Chianti on the weather maps or missing a vital blip on a seismograph because they were too busy playing air hockey in the break-out area and bitching about Paola from Finance by the water cooler.

As such, the Panorama programme was obviously watered-down a smidge. One wonders what it would have done had it found a damning paper trail that weaved its way through the whole BBC Executive Board and ended up on the desk of the Director-General with a ribbon on it saying “kill that bloody story right now – we’ve just spent the entire Doctor Who budget persuading Shane Richie to sit in the kiddie-fiddler’s chair and say ‘’Ow’s about that then?’ in a dodgy Leeds accent.”

Predictably they didn’t find any such trail. There was no smoking gun. Newsnight’s investigation into Savile died before it reached the cutting room floor – murdered by the evil Rippon – and the rest of the Beeb (D-G included) tucked into their Christmas dinner all warm and fuzzy and blissfully unaware that the recently-deceased Sir James was anything other than a loveable oddball with a penchant for marathon-running and philanthropy.

I’m not sure if I was the only person baying at the television at this point? Can we at least get some feedback from the dudes who commissioned the tribute show? Did they REALLY know NOTHING? Had they not learned the goss during a quick chat with those nice Newsnight people over a stodgy stroganoff in the staff canteen?? Apparently not. Or Panorama did not think to ask. It was too busy sticking the knife in to Peter Rippon.

Perhaps there is a big audience for this kind of stern, journalistic moralising. Maybe I am missing something. But I’m afraid I couldn’t give two hoots about the Newsnight angle. And I feel desperately sorry for Rippon, who sensibly decided he didn’t want to contribute to a Panorama programme that had recruited a number of his disgruntled underlings, all of whom were slightly sniffy that the boss had canned their story. He was rewarded by persistent stills of him looking a bit shifty while sections of his perfectly reasonable staff emails and blogs were read out in a booming, sanctimonious voice as if he was some absurd cackling evil genius in Castle Doom quaffing virgins’ blood and overseeing the earth’s destruction.

I also don’t really care if Rippon WAS just a puppet, and the evil geniuses tweaking his strings were George Entwistle and Helen Boaden and the other execs encouraging him to bury the pesky Savile piece under the mountains of wrapping paper in that annoying Christmas ident the Beeb were running at the time.

No. I’m sorry, but NONE of that is the story here.

The story, lest we forget, is that a REAL evil genius managed to run amok around TV Centre and Stoke Mandeville, and Broadmoor and Duncroft School for Troubled Girls for forty years and more. A strange, waxen-faced, leering beast with party hands and the fixed boggle-eyed stare of a career sex offender. I’m afraid there is no escaping it now. The only question the BBC should be addressing in their estimable current affairs output is how they could turn a blind eye to Jimmy Savile’s flagrant rampaging the whole sorry time.

In Panorama the scant exploration of THAT issue was eerie in its lack of fortitude and finger-pointing. Various doddery, wet-eyed old producers and colleagues were wheeled out to recall how they thought it was a bit rum that some chap in a tracksuit seemed awfully keen on locking up underage girls in his campervan. But of course, they never said anything because, you know, “it was the Seventies…”

Paul Gambaccini, the ubiquitous documentary gurner – talking head for hire – felt sad that the senior executives rattling round the “fourth floor” at the time were all guilty of looking the other way so as not to enrage their lampshade-coiffed, cigar-chomping cash cow. “We couldn’t say anything,” he bleated. “We were just junior producers…” Well you want to have a look at your career progression plan, Paul old son. Get yourself some seniority. 63 years of age and thirty-five years of presenting your own shows – you would have thought that somebody might have eventually listened to your accusations…

He is not the only one. The BBC – and indeed many other organisations – appeared to be utterly devoid of meaningful whistle-blowers while Savile was alive.

They’re all talking now. Oh yes. Hindsight – 20:20 and all that.

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