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BBC confirms it sacked Tony Blackburn for allegedly not fully co-operating with Jimmy Savile investigation

By | Published on Friday 26 February 2016


BBC boss Tony Hall has confirmed that the Corporation has “parted company” with DJ Tony Blackburn in relation to the evidence the presenter gave to the organisation’s Jimmy Savile review, the results of which were published yesterday.

Judge Janet Smith was hired to review the extent to which Savile committed sexual assaults and abuse on BBC premises during his long career with the broadcaster, and to assess how that was allowed to happen.

As expected, her report was pretty damning of the Corporation, concluding that while senior management were not aware of Savile’s criminal activities, which were most prevalent in the 1970s, the culture of the organisation meant that more junior staff with concerns about the star either didn’t feel they could make formal complaints, or if they did, those complaints were rarely passed up the hierarchy.

Smith’s report also raised concerns about the BBC’s corporate culture today, and whether staff would feel empowered to raise issues and complaints with senior managers, especially in relation to “untouchable” on-screen talent.

Blackburn announced that he had been sacked by the BBC ahead of the publication of Smith’s report yesterday, saying that he had been axed simply because he disagreed with the Beeb’s official line on two incidents from the 1970s, in particular allegations that he had abused a teenage girl who subsequently took her own life. The DJ said that, although the allegations against him were seemingly retracted, Corporation records say he was nevertheless questioned about them at the time by then BBC exec Bill Cotton Jr.

Blackburn denies any such meeting took place. He added in his lengthy statement on Wednesday night: “Dame Janet’s report makes no mention that I was guilty 45 years ago of any misconduct whatsoever with this girl. Nor did a coroner’s inquest or a subsequent police inquiry into her death. The BBC have made clear that they are not terminating my relationship with them because of any misconduct. They are destroying my career and reputation because my version of events does not tally with theirs”.

However, Hall said yesterday that it wasn’t simply that Blackburn disagreed with official BBC records that resulted in his axing, but that the DJ didn’t participate in Smith’s review as had been expected of existing staffers with long careers at the Corporation.

Hall said: “This is one of the most important enquires in the BBC’s history and that has put even greater responsibility on everyone who has taken part in the enquiry to co-operate fully and to be open. Dame Janet has rejected [Blackburn’s] evidence and has explained why. I have to take that extremely seriously”.

He went on: “My interpretation of that is that Tony fell short of the standards of evidence that such an enquiry demanded. I am making no judgement or accusations about events or behaviours about what happened in the past but simply about what he has done now and what he has done in front of this really crucial enquiry”.

Blackburn says he plans to sue the BBC over the axing of his shows on Radio 2 and BBC London. Though the presenter won’t be completely off the air in the meantime, because he also hosts shows on other non-BBC radio stations. One of those, KMFM, confirmed yesterday that the DJ will still appear on his Sunday afternoon show on its network. “He is a great asset, a fantastic broadcaster and someone we are proud to work with”, a spokesperson told Radio Today.