BBC slammed as it announces ‘sensitive’ drama about Jimmy Savile starring Steve Coogan

BBC slammed as it announces ‘sensitive’ drama about Jimmy Savile starring Steve Coogan

The BBC has faced strong criticism online after it was announced that they would be airing a new “sensitive” drama exploring the “complex” life of paedophile Jimmy Savile.

The mini-series, given the working title of The Reckoning, will see Alan Partridge actor Steve Coogan portray the late Jim’ll Fix It and Top of the Pops host, who died in 2011.

Following his death, the Metropolitan Police revealed that 450 allegations had been made against Savile, allegations they explored as part of Operation Yewtree.

Commenting on his casting, Coogan said: “To play Jimmy Savile was not a decision I took lightly. [Writer and co-producer] Neil McKay has written an intelligent script tackling sensitively an horrific story which - however harrowing - needs to be told.”

In its description of the drama, the BBC said it would “explore the way [Savile] used his celebrity and powerful connections to conceal his wrongdoings and to hide in plain sight”.

“[It] will trace the life of Jimmy Savile, a man who rose from working-class origins to become one of the biggest stars of British television, but in death has become one of the most reviled figures of modern history following revelations of extensive and horrific abuse.

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“The story will trace Savile through his early years in the dance halls of northern England, his career with the BBC, to his twilight years when he sought to dispel the growing rumours about his life and the legacy he would leave behind,” they said.

The broadcaster also went on to add that the team behind the series would be “working closely” with those whose lives were impacted by Savile, to “ensure their stories are told with sensitivity and respect”.

It will also use “extensive and wide-ranging research sources”.

Producer Jeff Pope, whose previous works have focussed on the disappearance of Shannon Matthews (The Moorside) and serial killer Fred West (Appropriate Adult), said: “The purpose of this drama is to explore how Savile’s offending went unchecked for so long, and in shining a light on this, to ensure such crimes never happen again.

“Steve Coogan has a unique ability to inhabit complex characters and will approach this role with the greatest care and integrity.”

Despite the team’s assurances, news of the upcoming drama has been met with backlash online, with many questioning the need for such a programme:

Others have pointed out the BBC’s involvement in Savile’s abuse, after Dame Janet Smith said in a 2016 report that the presenter would “gratify himself sexually on BBC premises whenever the opportunity arose” and that she heard of “incidents which took place in virtually every one of the BBC’s premises at which he worked”:

The investigation also found that one girl who complained about the presenter’s conduct was regarded as “a nuisance” by BBC floor staff.

A broadcast date for The Reckoning is yet to be announced.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website.

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