Scotland Yard has been conducting a criminal investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by the late disc jockey and TV personality Jimmy Savile over six decades, describing him as a "predatory sex offender." In mid-October, the metropolitan police stated they were pursuing over 400 lines of inquiry based on the testimony of 300 potential victims. Chris Patten, the head of the BBC's government body called it "this great tsunami of filth." BBC's "Newsnight" was about to broadcast an expose last December -- but BBC bosses spiked it, and, incredibly, aired Christmas tributes to Savile instead.
The New York Times has routinely found it implausible that a Pope or a Republican president or a Rupert Murdoch could ever be unaware of grave scandals or allegations of scandals beneath them. The paper consistently telegraphs that someone so unaware of such a scandal must be the worst kind of knave or dolt. So the newspaper's hiring of Mark Thompson is the height of corporate hypocrisy.
And that's the best that can be said. What if Thompson was not unaware, as common sense dictates?
The corporate statement that matters most (and sickens most) came from publisher "Pinch" Sulzberger. He insisted against all the evidence that Thompson "abides by high ethical standards" and "is the ideal person to lead our company." How in blazes do Thompson's assertions of ignorance of censorship and child sexual abuse in the hallways of his own network constitute "high ethical standards" and ideal leadership qualities?
It's perfectly obvious that the Times editors have followed Sulzberger's moral judgment and given the BBC a kid-gloves treatment, especially when you compare it to the paper's aggressive campaign of coverage against Rupert Murdoch in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. The differing levels of aggression are notable in the number of stories, the tone of stories and the allergic-to-front-page placement of BBC stories. Reporters covering Savile seem forced to use qualifiers that they would not use for subjects they dislike.
As in "Whether through a series of near misses or a more deliberate avoidance, the executives failed to confront questions about Mr. Savile and the possibility that, in decades past, the BBC was somehow complicit in his behavior." Somehow?
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