Former BBC presenter says she felt forced to kiss Jimmy Savile on TV

Selina Scott has claimed that she experienced sexual harassment while working as a presenter on BBC Breakfast in the Eighties.

Scott, who was one of the first co-hosts of BBC Breakfast Time in 1983, explained why she declined to be a guest on the BBC Breakfast show this week as part of its 40th anniversary celebrations.

She said it would be “dishonest” to appear on the show following her experiences on the show, which she claimed included being forced to deal with being kissed by co-presenter Frank Bough.

Scott also spoke about feeling forced to kiss Jimmy Savile when he appeared on the show as a guest, and said she felt women were placed on air for “decoration”.

The presenter told Daily Mail on Friday (20 January) that she was warned about the “snake-pit atmosphere” of the broadcasting house before she began her role.

“Boy, were they right,” she wrote, alleging that the corporation was “much like a Masonic club as it was a broadcasting company”.

“The men who ran it – always men – were almost all Oxbridge-educated, had a narrow, privileged perspective of life and were suspicious of the women they worked with,” Scott, 71, wrote. “With one or two exceptions, such as Sue Lawley and Angela Rippon, they didn’t really trust women to deliver.”

The Independent has contacted the BBC for comment.

She claimed her co-presenter Bough, who died in 2020, “perfectly embodied” a misogynistic “mindset”.

“I was a 31-year-old blonde. Bough, 50, was the mature, slightly gnarled, seasoned hand on the tiller. The unspoken visual image the producers sought was that of an older man and second wife duo,” she wrote.

Scott has previously spoken out against Bough’s alleged behaviour on the show, writing a similar piece for The Times in 2020, and spoke about their working relationship in an interview with The Guardian in 2021.

Frank Bough kissing Selina Scott on BBC’s ‘Breakfast Time’ in 1983 (PA)
Frank Bough kissing Selina Scott on BBC’s ‘Breakfast Time’ in 1983 (PA)

In other allegations made against Bough, Scott said that the presenter made a “denigrating sexual comment” about her, and claimed that the presenter was trying “to bed” fellow presenter Fern Britton.

“Fellow presenter Fern, an utter breath of fresh air, told me that Frank took her to lunch and said: ‘Well, young lady, how long will it be before you are having an affair with me?’ It must have terrified the life out of her,” she alleged.

Last year, Britton spoke out about Bough’s treatment of women in the BBC studios.

Speaking on the Postcards from Midlife podcast in 2022, Britton said: “Frank was sitting next to me and he leant back in his chair, looked at me and said, ‘Well, I wonder how long it’ll be before I’m having an affair with you – because I do have a very big c***’.”

Britton’s representatives told The Independent at the time that the presenter had nothing else to add.

Scott also claimed that she is still “irritated” by photographs that show Bough kissing her.

She wrote: “Whenever snappers appeared, Frank felt compelled to plant his lips on me, and I can only hope that discerning readers could see from the expression on my face that this was not something I enjoyed.”

The presenter continued, claiming that she felt forced to kiss Jimmy Savile, who made her uncomfortable with his “smutty innuendos” when he appeared on the show.

Since Savile’s death in October 2011, a string of official inquiries have been launched into claims that he sexually abused and preyed on around 500 vulnerable victims as young as two years old at institutions, including the BBC’s broadcasting studios, hospitals and children’s hospitals across England.

“When Savile saw he wasn’t getting any reaction from me, he said he wouldn’t answer any more questions unless I gave him a kiss,” she wrote. “My job was to engage with the guests and create a happy vibe and I felt I had no choice. Can you imagine all this being allowed to play out on British TV today? Or that women like me were expected to acquiesce?”

Scott wrote that she was uncomfortable when Bough kissed her in photographs (Getty Images)
Scott wrote that she was uncomfortable when Bough kissed her in photographs (Getty Images)

She explained: “I thought Savile repulsive, but to my bosses ratings were sacrosanct and Savile was seen as TV gold dust. He was untouchable.”

Scott said she had it written into her contract when she hosted the Wogan show that no guests were allowed to kiss her, after the “excruciating” experience of being kissed against her will.

She said she could not have appeared on the 40th anniversary of BBC Breakfast this week without being “dishonest”, writing: “How could I have said any of this? It would have been dishonest to just grin and throw out some platitudes as the show tripped down memory lane.”

Defending her decision to speak out and publicise her claims, Scott said she wanted to “tell it like it was” and that she thinks it’s “important that young women in media today understand the battles fought by my generation”.

Also justifying her decision to criticise Bough “when he is no longer with us and can’t answer back”, Scott said it is vital the “BBC acknowledges its past behaviour, so that each new woman who sits on the Breakfast sofa in the years to come has a better experience than me”.