Celebrity Predators at the BBC

If a celebrity I had found remotely attractive had made approaches to me when I was a child, I would have let him. I had no concept of being able to say "no." It was more important to be "good."

The Dame Janet Smith Review has reported that the BBC repeatedly failed to stop "monstrous" abuse by DJ Jimmy Savile and broadcaster Stuart Hall because of a "culture of fear" among staff.

She said BBC culture back in the 1970s "was deeply deferential" and people were reluctant to speak to managers about complaints.

My experience was a decade later but I'd still say she's right. That's just how it was back then.

Famous people were regarded differently too; we didn't have the culture of celebrity that we have now. We weren't inundated by celebrities and those who were genuinely famous were respected for having talent. We didn't read about their lives every day in the newspapers; they were rare beasts and treasured far more. And we had nothing like the "tall poppy syndrome" we have now where people delight in bringing those who dare to be famous down a peg or two.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending anyone here. All those attacks (and many more besides) were real and culpable. And they were also part of a far wider problem of lesser sexual assaults too.

I worked at the BBC in Birmingham in the 1980s both as a radio presenter for BBC Radio WM and as an assistant producer on the legendary Pebble Mill at One. I wasn't a kid - I was in my late 20s - but I came in for my fair share of the culture that meant that women were seen as fair game for celebrities.

I'm not going to name names but I will say that both times that it was serious enough that I complained to a manager about what would now be seen as highly inappropriate behaviour, my protests were brushed away. In fact, after I'd been cornered by an England cricketer and a Division One footballer and groped after a press conference my boss's response to my protest was, "think yourself lucky; you're not that pretty."

Should I have gone to the police? Heck no! In those days, you were just as likely to be groped by them too.

Before I joined the BBC, I worked as a breakfast presenter at Hereward Radio, in Peterborough. I managed to attract a stalker who sent worrying letters and ended up with a policeman standing guard outside my flat each morning at 4.30am when I left for work.

That was fine and dandy, but the senior officer who came round to check whether the support was working was quite happy to try his hand at getting at least a kiss and a cuddle for his pains. And to whom, exactly, was I expected to report that?

My worst story (which usually only comes out when I've had a few drinks) is of the married celebrity who had appeared on Pebble Mill at One whose wife looked on with amusement while he tried to push my face down into his crotch.

I'd gone to the Green Room at the request of two researchers who had been upset by lewd remarks this celebrity had made to her. I was that day's producer and I went to ask him, respectfully, if he could be more courteous to the girls. Instead, he grabbed my arm and tugged so that I fell on top of him and then put both hands on the back of my head and pushed my face down into his lap.

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to shout, "I do not want to suck your cock, Mr ....." and he dropped me like a scalded cat.

However, I was later called into the office of my boss and asked to account for myself as I had insulted a guest. Obviously, the celebrity was believed over me - his wife had been there for God's sake! I'm still madder at her than I am at him. He was just a creep; she should have known better.

The worst thing about this was that, as the boss of the researchers who had complained to me, I had tried to take action, but further up the chain, there was no support.

I don't know if those kind of things happen now; I hope not. As a 59-year-old I'm unlikely to have any more direct experience.

But I do have to add one thing. When I was in my teens in the 1970s, I was a silly star-struck little girl with no self-esteem. I'm not blaming myself for that; it is how I was raised. Men were still seen as being infinitely more important than women - we forget that rape within marriage was only made a crime in 1991 and TV was full of Benny Hill-type sexuality where women were depicted as enjoying being chased and groped.

If a celebrity I had found remotely attractive had made approaches to me when I was a child, I would have let him. I had no concept of being able to say "no." It was more important to be "good."

So, the ultimate answer to all this tragedy must be to teach our daughters and grand daughters self-esteem; that they are of value and their views matter. If we can do that, then predators such as Savile and Hall simply cannot have their way.

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