Apropos the continuing furore over the late Jimmy Savile and the definitely not late Stuart Hall, the names of Andy Grey and Richard Keys sprang to mind.
In case you’d forgotten (or the whole case had passed you by to begin with), Grey and Keys were the megastar presenters of Sky Sports’ football coverage. Unfortunately for them, they were caught on tape making distinctly sexist remarks about a female referee, and Grey then compounded that by jokingly asking a female Sky presenter to tuck his shirt in for him in a way that had clear sexual overtones.
As offences go, that probably rates no more than a 1 or 2 on the Savile-Hall scale (where Savile himself defined the meaning of 10 and Hall was somewhere around 7). Nonetheless, Sky didn’t see the funny side and sacked the pair of them.
So why are they relevant? Well, when it’s becoming increasingly clear that the BBC has a long-standing problem with abuse perpetrated by its senior stars, then the questions of how and why obviously need to be asked.
Sky sacked Grey and Keys because they had become a commercial liability. Despite being established stars who were, at least up to that point, very popular with their audience, they crossed a line where that was no longer enough. It’s also notable that Sky made no attempt to cover up their misbehaviour. The BBC, on the other hand, seems to have had an institutional reluctance to expose its star players to public scrutiny in a way which might damage their appeal.
So, what is the difference? Why should a commercial broadcaster (mostly owned, let’s not forget, by popular hate figure Rupert Murdoch) act more honourably than the great cultural institution which is the BBC?
I can’t answer that for certain. In any case, it’s likely that there are all sorts of different internal motivations, pressures and traditions which created that difference in culture. But, even so, I can’t help thinking that at least part of it is due to the unique way in which the BBC is funded.