Savile sex scandal spurs British soul searching
LONDON, England (AP) — Jimmy Savile was one of Britain's biggest stars — and, allegedly, one of its worst sexual predators. Now the nation is asking whether there was a link between one and the other.
Was this abuser at the heart of the nation's popular culture a product of the permissive 1960s and '70s, or do the conditions that let him get away with the abuse still exist, even as awareness of child sex abuse is more widespread?
"We're kidding ourselves if we think it is all hunky dory now, but obviously it was more lax," said Sarah Nelson, a child abuse expert at Edinburgh University. "The culture among disc jockeys at the time allowed a license you wouldn't get now."
Savile, who died a year ago at age 84, came to fame in an era of social transformation. He started out as a dance hall DJ in the early days of rock 'n' roll before breaking into television in the early '60s as host of the music program "Top of the Pops." Later he hosted "Jim'll Fix It," a TV show in which he made young viewers' wishes come true.
The rules of social and sexual behavior in Britain were changing in the '60s and '70s. Along with new freedoms came opportunities for abusers like Savile, whose career in the exploding world of popular entertainment gave him access to legions of star-struck young people.
"It was all opening up — the pop stars, the glamour — and he was able to take advantage of it because of course he became famous and he could introduce them to famous people, get them on 'Top of the Pops' and all that," said Max Clifford, Britain's best-known celebrity publicist.