BBC Director General George Entwistle has confirmed the BBC will conduct an inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse against former DJ Sir Jimmy Savile.
Mr Entwistle said he would like to "apologise on behalf of the organisation" to the women involved.
His comments come a day after David Cameron called on the broadcaster to launch a full investigation into the scandal, which he described as "truly shocking".
A number of women have come forward accusing Savile of rape and sexual abuse in the 1970s, some of which allegedly took place on BBC premises.
Around 40 women have come forward with allegations against Savile
Mr Entwistle said there needed to be a "comprehensive examination" of what went on, following a police investigation.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "These are awful allegations that have been made and they are criminal allegations and the first thing I want to say is that the women involved here have gone through something awful, something I deeply regret they should have to go through.
Mr Entwistle promised there would be a "comprehensive examination" of what went on after the police investigation
"I would like to apologise on behalf of the organisation to each and every one of them for what they've had to endure here."
He added: "When the police have finished everything they have to do and when they give me an assurance that there is no danger of us in any way compromising or contaminating an investigation, I will take it further and ensure that any outstanding questions are answered properly."
Two police forces investigated allegations against the entertainer in the past but no action was taken
Mr Entwistle said any investigation needed to be done in "two phases", and the BBC would "take a look properly" after the police inquiry.
He said: "At the heart of what went on are a series of criminal allegations about the behaviour of Sir Jimmy Savile, Now, the way to deal with those is to make sure that the police, who are the only properly constituted authority for dealing with criminal investigations, are allowed to make the examinations and inquiries they need to make.
"So... it is critically important that we start by putting the BBC at the disposal of the police in this regard."
Any BBC probe, he added, would examine the "broad question of what was going and whether anybody around Jimmy Savile knew what was going on".
Mr Entwistle said he was told that Newsnight was looking at a possible investigation into Savile at around early December last year.
He said: "The BBC is designed in such a way that news and current affairs programmes are protected from the interests and influence of the rest of the organisation."
He added: "With the benefit of hindsight I think we could all wish that Newsnight had been able to go as far as ITV went."
But he also stressed he was supportive of the judgement made in relation to the programme based on knowledge at the time.
Asked why the BBC ran a eulogy on Savile after evidence surfaced, he said: "I didn't know what had become of that investigation, I didn't know what discoveries, if any, that they had.
"A great many people in the country loved Jimmy Savile and wanted to contribute to that programme."
Asked if he had heard about the rumours about Savile at the time the programme was broadcast, he said: "No, I had not.
"Jimmy Savile was regarded as, I think by a great many people, as odd, a bit peculiar, that was something I was aware some people believed, but I did not know, and I've heard an awful lot of talk from people about what they knew, and it does seem to me that if people knew, they'd seen something themselves or been told something directly or had evidence of his behaviour, if they knew that then there was an enormous obligation on them to have done something about it."
The BBC of today, he added, has a child protection policy which would "absolutely stop" access for people in Savile's position to under-18s on BBC premises.
He said: "It's very important that people don't think the BBC of today is anything like in character managed the way it was at the time."
An ITV documentary screened last week claimed Gary Glitter sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in Jimmy Savile's dressing room as the Savile groped another girl, aged 14.
Karin Ward waived her right to anonymity to talk of abuse suffered by herself and another girl from Duncroft school in Surrey.
She added: “Jimmy Savile had a girl on his lap and his hand up her skirt and inside her underwear. She came from Duncroft and was 14.
"The girl Gary Glitter was having sex with also came from Duncroft. I think she might have been not quite 14.”
Firm friends: Sir Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter
“I didn’t see it completely but that’s what was going on and nobody batted an eyelid. I also told them I was horribly, horribly humiliated.
Gary Glitter, a convicted paedophile, has reportedly denied the claims.
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- Jimmy Savile 'To Be Accused Of Being A Paedophile In New Documentary'
Questions have been raised about the culture at the corporation in the 1980s after allegations emerged about the late Sir Jimmy Savile's conduct.
Former Radio 1 DJ Liz Kershaw described last week how she was routinely groped by a colleague.
Sandi Toksvig has told how she was groped on air by a "famous individual" 30 years ago
TV and radio presenter Sandi Toksvig revealed as she was reviewing the papers on the Andrew Marr show how she was groped on air by a "famous individual" 30 years ago.
Ms Toksvig, who declined to name the celebrity, said when she informed other staff what had happened they thought it was funny.