By Hannes Wessels
Growing up in Rhodesia my father paid close attention to international events and at one o’clock our lunch table went silent as he fine-tuned the short-wave radio to reduce the mush and we waited for the unmistakable sound of the ‘BEEB’ and ‘The News from London’. The announcer then delivered the report with clipped erudition which we were encouraged to emulate. But this, we understood, was not just ‘the news’ it was the final word on the world! The BBC was quite simply the oracle and the word thus spoken was final and undeniable.
It was against this background that I dealt with confusion and distress when Ian Smith declared UDI and incurred the wrath of the world. Leading the media attack on the country was the same broadcaster I had so recently revered. Having just been convinced of their infallibility I was left floundering in self-doubt trying to understand the malevolence of the attacks on a group of people that I was, through no fault of my own, part of. I found myself battling to appreciate the fact that the ‘oracle’ had decided I and my fellow Europeans in ‘unliberated Africa’ were a collection of avaricious, cold-blooded colonialists pursuing a racist agenda while abusing a benighted black majority. This was quite traumatic because I felt they must surely be right but the empirical evidence I sought was lacking.
I did not know anyone who was horrible to black people; there was general peace and prosperity across the country and all of us children were taught to be kind and respectful towards our black countrymen and women. But the BEEB did a spectacularly good job of convincing the world they were right and the rest is history. Across Africa the ‘Liberation Movements’, loudly championed for decades by the BBC, have prevailed and various forms of chaotic misrule leading to mass misery have followed.
That experience taught me a harsh lesson in the lethal power of the media and how much damage can be caused when falsehood trumps the truth and the world is fed a big fat lie. Just why the corporation attacked the Europeans of southern Africa with such venom has long perplexed me so it was enlightening to follow the disclosures surrounding the ‘outing’ of the iconic figure of Sir Jimmy Savile.
Throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when we ‘white racists’ were being vilified we had no idea our most vocal and effective critics were also fully involved in running a massive paedophile operation and the BBC was providing a safe and comfortable haven for a legion of perverts and sexual predators of varying proclivities. The Savile story is too ghastly and detailed to delve into here but this corporate poster-boy attacked thousands of often defenceless victims aged 5 to 75 in a criminal career that lasted over 50 years. His depravity extended to the morgue where he bragged of having engaged in sexual activity with cadavers and stealing glass eyes from the dead to fashion jewellery. The incidents ranged from inappropriate touching to rape and involved victims from children to pensioners, the mentally retarded, hospital patients and female staff alike. He was never prosecuted.
But that was only the tip. On the back of the Savile revelations a flood of names have appeared of people who have worked for the BBC being involved in sex-crimes including Rolf Harris, Dave Lee Travis, Freddie Starr, Jim Davidson, Gary Glitter, William Roache of Coronation Street fame, ‘Top of the Pops’ DJ Alan Freeman and Stuart Hall to name only some.
Hall was described as an “opportunistic predator” after admitting indecently assaulting 13 girls as young as nine. He has been accused of trying to stop his child abuse victims from getting compensation by transferring his £1.2million home into his wife’s name. Two women came forward to say they were sexually abused by Hall in the Sixties and Seventies after he was hired to give prizes at their schools. Hall invited the teenagers to the BBC’s Manchester headquarters. One said Hall plied her with champagne and assaulted her in his dressing room. The other said he sexually assaulted her in his car after inviting her to a ‘mocked up’ studio session. Both said Hall was helped by his friends, amid growing concerns that other staff at the BBC may have turned a blind eye to the abuse.
If there is any doubt about the extent of high-level protection afforded the culprits the disclosures surrounding ‘hush money’ gratuities paid by the corporation provide damning evidence.
According to figures released under Freedom of Information, 539 staff have signed gagging orders at a total cost of £28million. The scale of the pay-outs led to accusations that the BBC was using the agreements to silence potential whistle- blowers and victims of bullying or sexual harassment. The biggest pay-offs were made to BBC managers, with 77 executives receiving more than £100,000 and 14 over £300,000. They include George Entwistle, the former director-general who received a £450,000 pay-off, double the amount he was contractually entitled to. He resigned in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal after spending just 54 days in the job.
Then the sordid saga gets even more sinister. Kristian Dibgy, Natasha Collins, Mark Speight, Kevin Greening and ‘Crimewatch’ hostess Jill Dando all worked for the BBC and all died mysteriously. All may have been wanting to break the criminal silence.
An anonymous source claimed “no one wanted to know” when Miss Dando raised concerns about an alleged pedophile ring within the BBC. She is said to have passed a file to senior management in the mid-1990s, but they never carried out an investigation. The source said: “I don’t recall the names of all the stars now and don’t want to implicate anyone, but Jill said they were surprisingly big names. I think she was quite shocked when told about images of children and that information on how to join this horrible pedophile ring was freely available.” She was shot dead on April 26, 1999, on the doorstep of her home in west London. The crime remains unsolved.
With all the above now known and understood my heartfelt sympathies lie with the victims whose lives were destroyed by the monsters who were given license to prey on them by the BBC management and staff. But for me I have now found a measure of relief; I now know the small white tribe I was once part of were never the real villains. We were victims of an evil institution that exploited a tragic situation to deflect attention away from its own wickedness….