LONDON – Britain's government could order a full public inquiry into the British Broadcasting Corp.'s handling of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, the country's top media minister said Sunday.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller was quoted as telling The Sunday Telegraph newspaper that a formal investigation into the broadcaster could be launched, if its own internal inquiries don't establish how the famed TV host's behavior was allowed to go unchecked for decades.
Savile, one of the BBC's best known entertainers, has been accused of sexually abusing hundreds of vulnerable young people. Police said that the host, who died last year at the age of 84, and his accomplices may have abused at least 300 people, mainly women.
The BBC is conducting separate inquiries into whether Savile was able to use his fame to gain access to potential victims, and if a culture of silence among colleagues meant that suspicious about his alleged crimes were not reported to executives, or to authorities.
In addition, the BBC is also investigating the decision by one of the channel's flagship current affairs show to shelve an investigation into Savile last December — weeks before the organization aired tribute shows to the performer. The sex allegations were later aired on the rival ITV network.
"The real challenge for the BBC is to make sure that the outcome of these reviews really gets to the bottom of these accusations," Miller told the newspaper. "If the investigations are considered not to suffice because of issues around transparency, process or other such things, then a public inquiry remains an option."
A public inquiry is commissioned by Britain's government only for the most serious issues, and has the power to summon witnesses or order authorities to disclose documentary evidence.