I was invited to appear this morning on Sky News to discuss Janet Smith's report on Jimmy Savile at the BBC. But the press conference launching the report went on for an hour or so longer than anticipated, and I never got an air.
You never know with these things where the conversation is going to go, but I'm not sure I would have had very much new to say in any event. I've written about Savile on a previous blog, as well as in a review of Dan Davis's biography. However, what I was planning on saying was this:
The stories about Savile were all over the music industry by the mid-1970s. Not the allegations that he was raping 10-year-olds, but the fact that he had a penchant for teenage girls and didn't bother much with the age of consent.
This was not unusual in the pop world. Anyone who knows anything about the history of rock 'n' roll should be able to come up with a couple of dozen names of those said to have similar taste. Admittedly, there was a difference between beautiful young rock stars and a seedy man in his fifties, but it's not one that is now - or was then - recognised in law.
Rumours aren't evidence, said Smith at the press conference this morning, and as a former judge, she would require evidence. But no one suggests action should be taken against Savile on the grounds of the rumours; merely that if they heard those rumours, then senior figures at the BBC should have made enquiries. At which stage, evidence might well have emerged.
It is possible, of course, that the BBC hierarchy never heard those rumours. And that may also be true of senior figures in the police force, the political world, the NHS, the charities, the local businesses, the prison service. Maybe none of them heard a whisper against him, and that's why they continued to work with him and to court his attention. But it seems a little unlikely.
Even more unlikely is that the newspapers didn't hear the rumours. Where were the investigative journalists? Where were the tabloids? Why did not one of them break ranks and pursue the story of Savile's abuse? If the allegation now being made against the BBC is that it turned a blind eye, then the same is surely true of Fleet Street.