The BBC “parted company” with Tony Blackburn because the evidence he gave to the Jimmy Savile sex abuse inquiry “fell short” of the standards required, the corporation’s director general has said.
Lord Hall said that, while he made no judgment on any claims about past behaviour, he must take “extremely seriously” Dame Janet Smith’s rejection of Blackburn’s evidence.
“My interpretation of that is that Tony Blackburn fell short of the standards of evidence that such an inquiry demanded,” he told reporters shortly after the report’s publication on Thursday morning.
Blackburn responded by claiming he had been “hung out to dry” by the BBC, adding that he would be taking legal action.
Smith’s report said there had been “serious failings” at the BBC that allowed Savile and Stuart Hall to sexually abuse nearly 100 people without detection for decades.
It found that despite what had happened with Savile and Hall in previous years, those worked at the BBC were still worried about reporting potential abuse and taking on the broadcaster’s stars.
“So many survivors and witnesses have honestly and openly co-operated fully and at great personal cost to themselves.
“As Dame Janet has said, she has rejected his evidence and has explained very clearly why.
“I have to take that extremely seriously. My interpretation of that is that Tony Blackburn fell short of the standards of evidence that such an inquiry demanded.
“I am making no judgment or accusations about events or behaviours about what happened in the past, but simply about what he’s done now and what he was doing in front of this really crucial inquiry.”
“I am sure that all of us who have been through the 1,000 pages are probably overwhelmed by what we hear about the nature of the seriousness of what they have said and also the cultural response of the BBC.
“And that’s why my decision was my decision. I’m taking a position about the standards of behaviour I expect from everyone working at the BBC now.”
Blackburn issued a statement on Thursday saying: “I have listened to what has been said by Tony Hall and others today in connection with the publication of the Dame Janet Smith report.
“I repeat what I told Dame Janet when I voluntarily gave evidence to assist her and the BBC. What I said in my earlier statement regarding the alleged meetings with Brian Neill QC and Bill Cotton Jr 45 years ago still stands.
“Given Dame Janet Smith’s concerns of a culture of fear in coming forward at the BBC, the fact that I have been scapegoated for giving my honest account and best recollections of those events 45 years ago – which I felt was a whitewash – what whistleblower at the BBC would ever come forward when they see the way they have hung me out to dry?
“Sadly today’s news agenda should have been about the survivors of abuse carried out within the BBC but, by sacking me, they have managed to take the focus off those who have suffered so much.
“My lawyers are now considering all statements made by the BBC about me today and we will be taking action.”