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It’s rarely that a news organisation itself becomes a source of sensational news, and when it does, it has disastrous results. The BBC, a world-class broadcasting corporation, is mired in such a situation and is reeling under the impact of multiple blows to its reputation and integrity after revelations about the sexual abuses by the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savil. Savil, it is said, had been guilty of a chain of sexual crimes during his years as a BBC star and no one at the corporation did anything about it. What’s more, key information about the crimes was hidden from the public for almost a year. The news organization is being roasted alive in the British media for its acts of omissions and its bosses are weighing the consequences of the scandal.
The BBC has launched two inquiries into the scandal. One is into how Savile was able to get away with the abuse, and the other is into why a programme investigating his activities was dropped. The probes are expected to dig out the truth, but sex abuse scandals can seriously dent the reputation of a news organization and can undo the good work done over decades.
The best thing the corporation can do now is to tell the whole truth and face up to the truth, however terrible, and implement measures to ensure transparency in future. The corporation has been accused of being too secretive and this is the time to take corrective measures and speak what it knows.
For BBC, even the easiest exit from the current crisis will be very painful. Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said that the broadcaster had been engulfed by a “tsunami of filth”. This shows the magnitude of the challenges ahead for the corporation; however hard it tries, some muck will stick. Also, the corporation will have to prepare for legal ramifications arising from allegations that other employees too were involved in abuses and questions remain over what bosses knew, and when. The financial costs too could be phenomenal if the victims of abuse choose to seek compensation. The number of victims is staggering. The police have so far identified around 300 of them, making Savile one of the worst offenders in British history.
Justice must be done, and it seems will be done, going by the determination of the government and the bosses at the Corporation. But it will be wrong to crucify the corporation unfairly, more than it deserves. The world needs BBC with its integrity and reputation untarnished. The mists of suspicion need to be cleared fast, and the corporation should be allowed to continue doing what it has been doing wonderfully: bringing news to the world.