During the 1980s, the BBC investigated the politics of its employees, but chose to ignore other behaviour (photo: Photoedit/Alamy)
How did “Jim’ll fix it” get away with it for so long? That’s what everyone wants to know. There are 400 “lines of enquiry,” as the police describe potential victims in their bloodless prose, spanning 40 years. Isn’t it amazing that no one reported him?
Actually, I don’t find it surprising. I am a child of the 1970s and I grew up watching Jim’ll Fix It. I also grew up with dirty old men. Lechers, as they were known, were an occupational hazard for an 11-year-old boy in 1972. There were the “dirty old men” that hung around the public toilet in my local town. There were the flashers. There was “Butch” Armstrong, the history master at my public school. It wasn’t as if we didn’t know about dirty old men; my parents would occasionally warn me to stay away from them, and guessing who was a dirty old man and who wasn’t was a rich source of speculation among my friends and I.
What was odd, looking back, is that no one did anything about them. They were treated like natural obstacles, which you needed to navigate around as a pre-pubescent boy like driving a car around road works. We complained about them, but they were seen as an irritating fact of life.
Remember, the adults of the 1970s were the children of the 1960s. They were still coming to terms with straightforward sex between consenting adults in all its forms; when it came to deviant sexual behaviour, they were completely at sea. They didn’t understand the pathology of sexual deviancy and didn’t even condemn it as criminal. They handled it crudely, excuse the pun, by giving people caricature titles like “dirty old men,” and telling us children to just “stay away.” They had no guidelines for what was appropriate or inappropriate. The police wanted nothing to do with it, only intervening if it was causing a public disturbance, such as the time a flasher tried to assault girls coming out of our public library. If you were someone like Jimmy Savile, fondling underage girls in the privacy of your own caravan, then the law wasn’t interested.
The second reason for such a moral failure was that in the 70s…