Rolf Harris gets 5 years. Questions for the BBC.

Rolf Harris gets 5 years. Questions for the BBC.


norman lebrecht

July 04, 2014

In 1993, after a prolonged absence from prime time screens, Rolf Harris was brought back to the BBC to host Animal Hospital. The series drew such high ratings that the incoming controller of BBC1, Lorraine Heggessey, commissioned him to present Rolf on Art, the channel’s only educational programme on the arts.

It was a significant act of dumbing down, from which the BBC has struggled ever since to recover.




I challenged Lorraine Heggessey at the time, in print, and live on BBC Radio, to explain what she was doing allowing a man of no attainments other than great fame for being famous, to usurp the role of Kenneth Clark as the man who opened the nation’s eyes to art.

She spluttered a bit and called me ‘elitist’. She had no other justification for employing Rolf other than his ‘popularity’.

I accept that many friends and colleagues knew nothing of Rolf’s dark side. But now that Harris, 84, has been sent to jail for five years and nine months, for indecent assaults on young girls, the BBC has two questions to answer:

1 Given that female staff commonly called him ‘the octopus’ for his roving hands, was any formal harrassment complaint ever made against the entertainer, and how was it handled?

2 Was any objection at a senior level to Harris being cast as an authority on art? Did Alan Yentob, now the corp’s ‘creative director’ register an objection? Did the present D-G Tony Hall, then head of news? Did anyone attempt to prick Lorraine Heggessey’s preposterous bubble that brought so much disgrace on an national institution? Or did everyone just look the other way?

Answers, please, Tony Hall.


  • Dennis Marks says:

    You might also ask Lord Hall why during today’s BBC lunchtime report on the jailing of the Prime Minister’s former head of communications for conspiracy why no-one on the programme asked Cameron why he employed someone with a string of connections to journalists accused of criminal acts.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Funnily enough, I put that question in a private gathering to one of his candidates at the last election. She said lots of people were asking Cameron that, and he just stonewalled them. Coulson was foisted on him by Osborne and Rebekah Brooks.

  • Lizzie Cornish says:

    Just so’s you are aware, the judge himself, Nigel Sweeney, told the jury NOT to take on board the ‘Octopus’ title as it was just ONE woman who had called him this…and that was the woman they brought over from Oz, who alleged Rolf had groped her..wait for it….24 times in one working day.

    Yeah, right….

    If you want to find out far more about this shocking miscarriage of justice, go to the ‘Support Rolf Harris’ facebook page…and then, think VERY deeply about what you have been told in the press. Rolf is NO paedophile at all, in my view, never was, never will be. There is not an ounce of evidence to prove any of the allegations against him, other than he had a relationship with a far younger woman, over the age of 18. Many do…it is NOT a crime, never has been. His family had forgiven him…and that was ALL that mattered. It was none of anyone else’s business at all.

    Look into the characters pushing Operation Yewtree and the £money they are all making from it…as well as the publicity. FREE ROLF HARRIS!