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Tony Blackburn says BBC sacked him ahead of Savile report, plans to sue

By | Published on Thursday 25 February 2016


Tony Blackburn has said he plans to sue the BBC after the Corporation allegedly sacked him from his current Radio 2 and Radio London roles ahead of the long-awaited publication of the report by judge Janet Smith into the culture and practices at the broadcaster during the years Jimmy Savile worked there.

Smith was asked to conduct the review in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, after it became clear that many of the incidents of sexual abuse committed by the former presenter and DJ had occurred on BBC premises.

The report was being made public as we went to press, but was expected to be very critical of the BBC and its culture during Savile’s tenure, and to also raise concerns about current management practices at the organisation, where, Smith was expected to say, staff are still wary to complain to and about those higher up the hierarchy.

Blackburn issued a statement last night claiming that, ahead of the publication of the report, he had been sacked by the BBC because he had disagreed with the Corporation’s official line on an incident that occurred in the early 1970s.

The incident related to allegations made in 1971 by a fifteen year old girl, who subsequently took her own life. Before her death, the teenager wrote in her diary that she had been assaulted by a BBC DJ. Blackburn was accused of that assault, though, the DJ said, “I am told that the mother told the BBC, a few weeks after her initial complaint, that her daughter had withdrawn her allegation against me”.

Blackburn adds in his statement that: “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”.

Clarifying that point, he says the Corporation’s records state he was interviewed by then BBC exec Bill Cotton Jr about the allegations made by the teenager. But the DJ denies any such interview took place. He similarly disagrees with BBC records that say he was also interviewed by Brian Neill QC as part of a payola investigation at the Beeb.

“I have repeatedly told Dame Janet and the BBC I was never interviewed by either men in this context”, he says. “And the BBC records are either very vague or have, conveniently, disappeared. Regardless of these facts, the BBC is axing me after five decades of broadcasting. Sadly what is happening to me now seems to be entirely in keeping with the past BBC culture of whitewash and cover-up”.

Recalling his 49 years working with the BBC, he accuses the Corporation of now using him as a “scapegoat”, adding that he believes the decision to axe his radio shows on the back of Smith’s report had been made by Beeb boss Tony Hall himself. Concluding, Blackburn’s statement says: “I am now left with no choice but to take legal action against the BBC. They have taken away a career I love and I will not allow them to destroy my reputation”.

The BBC is yet to comment on Blackburn’s statement, though Smith was set to make a statement to the press about her wider report shortly after 10am this morning.