The News Of The World, under the editorship of the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Wade (now Brooks), championed the cause of Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah had been killed by a predatory paedophile. This showed that the Screws, and indeed the Fourth Estate as a whole, really cared about those whose stories featured in its pages, and not merely about sales.
Yes, they all kept quiet. Including her
But when the Screws’ “naming and shaming” ended up with a paediatrician having her house vandalised, and an innocent family man getting a brick through his front window, Ms Wade and her pals went quiet. And then we found out that the Screws had been hacking Sara Payne’s phone – the one they gave her. It was still just about sales: the cynicism and hypocrisy were breathtaking.
So it has been with the rush to make a few quid out of the, shall we say, exploits of the late Jimmy Savile. He had been rumoured to have an unhealthy interest in under-age girls for many years, but nobody had come forward and many across the media – yes, the whole of it – were loath to jump to conclusions while the DJ and host was raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity.
Now all is changed as allegations ranging from molestation to rape have been made. This has given the papers two heaven sent opportunities: first, to scream “paedo” and frighten readers into buying what anyone with a laptop already knew, and second, an excuse to dump Savile’s behaviour on the hated BBC. That there were no formal complaints made to them during his lifetime is not allowed to enter.
Sadly, not all the attacks are of a particularly coherent nature: the Telegraph’s Damian Thompson illustrates his rant at the Beeb with a photo of Savile wearing a Yorkshire TV tie and appearing on Calendar, which was, er, on ITV. Trevor Kavanagh at the Sun calls Savile a “wrinkly old fraud”, showing that age does not always bring wisdom to the process of quote selection.
Both assert that the whole business is a “BBC cover-up”. After all, BBC bosses had “heard rumours”. Yes, organisations should base their judgments on who to hire and fire based on rumour. The Mail, which will no doubt be returning to the subject, suggests “BBC bosses hushed up Savile’s abuse”. But if nobody came forward, what was there to hush up? You’ve no evidence, you go nowhere.
For a more reasoned take on the whole business, we have to look back at the Tel and a post from Mic Wright, who pores over the apparently widespread exploitation of young girls in the pop culture of the 1960s and 70s. Where was the Fourth Estate then? If they knew, they too accepted it in the same way that they now accuse the BBC of doing. But now Savile is dead, and there is a need to sell more papers.
So the tabloids claim once more that they care. No change there, then.