Five leading women's rights organisations have demanded the BBC investigate "institutional sexism" in the wake of allegations that presenter Jimmy Savile sexually abused underage girls during his time at the corporation.
Eaves, EVAW Coalition, Equality Now, Object and Rape Crisis England & Wales have written to BBC Director General George Entwistle asking that the two internal inquiries at the BBC consult sexual violence experts, and look at the historical culture of sexism at the BBC, if one existed.
The letter, which has also been sent to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, the two Inquiry leads Dame Janet Smith and Nick Pollard and Lord Leveson, also asks that sex abuse victims be the focus of this year's Children In Need Appeal.
Jimmy Savile's alleged abuse could span six decades and included about 60 victims
The letter says: "Sexual harassment is extremely common. It is still routinely experienced by many women in the workplace, including the media, and is also common in public places and in schools.
"While some commentators may dismiss this as minor or trivial – referring to it as ‘banter’ – women and girls experience it as part of a spectrum of abuse, as evidenced by the BBC female presenters and staff members who saw their experiences of sexual harassment and Savile’s behaviour as connected to a culture of sexism."
They ask for a rigorous examination of the "culture and practices of the BBC that allowed Savile to abuse on the scale and over the period of time that he did."
The groups have also called for answers over the controversial dropping of the Newsnight investigation into the Jimmy Savile abuse claims.
The letter goes on to say: "The ITV documentary on Savile and subsequent revelations cast serious doubt on Peter Rippon’s editorial judgement as the BBC arguably missed one of the biggest stories of recent times.
"The context here must also include that the BBC was planning to, and did, broadcast tributes to Savile after the Newsnight investigation was dropped.
We would ask you to consider as part of this Inquiry whether prejudicial attitudes, for example that minimise violence against women, whether explicit or implicit, played any part in the editorial judgement made in this matter.
"We also recommend that perhaps as a consequence of this Inquiry you look into whether all those working in BBC newsrooms, from journalists through to senior editors, are acquainted with the nature, scale and law relating to all forms of violence against women.
|This area of policy can unfortunately be taken for granted or minimised as ‘women’s issues’ within a culture of explicit or implicit institutional sexism.
|In fact these issues are as interesting and complex as any other, and we feel that many strong political and human interest stories are being missed because of a lack of insight and understanding of the prevailing forces that contribute to what might sometimes be seen as a normalisation and acceptance of the inevitability of sexual violence."