THE crisis threatening to engulf the BBC in the wake of sex abuse allegations against Sir Jimmy Savile OBE intensified tonight when former Radio 1 disc jockey Liz Kershaw claimed she was “routinely groped” on air.
• DJ says Savile’s beheaviour was open secret at BBC
• Radio 1 had ‘rugby club locker room’ atmosphere
The 54-year-old, who still works for the corporation, said she was asked if she was a
lesbian when she tried to complain about the “intimidating” atmosphere that pervaded the station in the 1980s.
Her claims have heaped embarrassment on the BBC after director general George Entwistle said he was “appalled” by the revelations in an ITV documentary about Savile, who died last October aged 84.
The BBC said it was “shocked” by Kershaw’s allegations and urged anyone with information to contact police.
Kershaw, who still presents a radio show on BBC 6 Music, also claimed Savile’s behaviour was an “open secret” at the time. He left the station the year she arrived in 1987.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today, Kershaw said Radio 1 had a “rugby club locker room” atmosphere at the time.
“I couldn’t say anything, I couldn’t even explain because I was broadcasting to the nation. When I complained to somebody they were incredulous and said ‘Don’t you like it, are you a lesbian?” she said.
The BBC has vowed to co-operate with a police probe launched into claims that Savile abused young girls at the height of his fame. The NSPCC charity has urged victims and witnesses to come forward so that a “full picture of what happened” can be built up and lessons learned.
Last week broadcaster Janet Street-Porter revealed she was aware of rumours about Savile’s abuse of under-age girls when she worked at the BBC in the late 1980s. She also said there was a culture of inappropriate behaviour behind the scenes of the “male-dominated” light entertainment industry.
Kershaw, sister of broadcaster Andy Kershaw, said of Savile: “The rumours were there, the jokes were there. It was an open secret.
“Round Radio 1 everyone joked about Jimmy Savile and young girls. The main jokes were about his adventures on the Radio 1 Roadshow. It was massive then.
“It was rather like the X Factor going round the country then. Can you imagine the X Factor judges rounding up the contestants and asking for sexual favours after the show? I don’t think so.
“When I walked into Radio 1 it was … like walking into a rugby club locker room and it was very intimidating for a young woman.
“There was one presenter who routinely groped me. I would be sitting in the studio with my headphones on, my back to the studio door, live on air, and couldn’t hear a thing except what was in my headphones, and then I’d find these wandering hands up my jumper fondling my breasts.”
In a statement, the BBC said: “We are shocked by allegations that anything of this sort could have been carried out by anyone working for the BBC. They are allegations the police have the proper powers to investigate. We would encourage anyone with information on such allegations to also speak to the police.
Kershaw, who first started broadcasting with BBC Radio Leeds in 1985, got her big break with Radio 1 as a producer for established names like Mike Smith, Janice Long and Dave Pearce. She went on to win a Sony Award, was one of the original Five Live presenters and helped launched BBC 6 Music in 2002.
But she was one of several BBC DJs named and shamed five years ago during a scandal over fake competition winners.
Her show was fined £115,000 by Ofcom for “misleading its audiences” after it emerged it had held 23 faked phone-ins where members of the public had no chance of winning. Kershaw was forced to broadcast an apology and was taken off air for months. She later complained the episode had left her reputation “in tatters.”
Scotland Yard has said its officers are contacting all individuals who have made claims about Savile and that they should know how many other victims there are this week.
A growing number of victims have come forward to say that Savile sexually assaulted them after five women took part in the documentary claiming that they had been abused by him.
In the film the alleged victims accused the Jim’ll Fix It and Clunk-Click presenter of sexually assaulting them, some while on BBC premises. Police in Northamptonshire, Surrey, Sussex and Jersey have now been contacted by victims. The assessment of claims will be led by Detective Superintendent David Gray, from the Metropolitan Police’s child abuse investigation command.