Some BBC employees were aware of sexual assault complaints against the late entertainer Jimmy Savile but the institution missed opportunities to stop him, an investigation commissioned by the BBC found Thursday.

Savile, who died in October 2011, is believed to be one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders.

The review, described Thursday by a former Court of Appeal judge, Dame Janet Smith, blamed a culture of fear within the media institution for being behind employees' failures to criticize a celebrity or escalate their concerns to senior managers. She said an atmosphere of fear still exists at the BBC, but she cleared the institution of responsibility for Savile's widespread sex abuse — a decision likely to infuriate his victims.

"The evidence I heard suggested that the talent was treated with kid gloves and rarely challenged," she said. "There was a feeling of reverence for them and a fear that, if a star were crossed, he or she might leave the BBC."

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Dame Janet Smith found employees were aware of complaints of sexual assault against Jimmy Savile and missed opportunities to stop him. However, the review by a former court of appeal judge cleared the BBC of responsibility. (Adrian Dennis/Associated Press)

She said 117 people at the BBC admitted they had heard rumours about Savile, who even abused some victims on BBC premises, including the venues where his programs Top Of The Pops, and Jim'll Fix It were shot.

Girls who raised concerns were treated as a "nuisance."

Smith's review said the incidents dated back to 1959. She identified 72 victims of Savile, both male and female. One was only eight years old.

The inquiry also concluded that another BBC star, sports presenter Stuart Hall, 86, also used his celebrity to shield his activities, often plying his victims with alcohol.

The Hall investigation was carried out by another former Court of Appeal judge, Dame Linda Dobbs, because Smith had a conflict of interest. Dobbs found 21 victims of Hall, who was jailed in 2013 after pleading guilty to multiple charges of indecent assault.

The director-general of the BBC, Tony Hall, apologized to the victims.

"What this terrible episode tells us is that fame is power, a very strong form of power," he said. "And like all power it must be held to account. It must be challenged and it must be scrutinized. And it wasn't."

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The review identified 72 victims of Savile, both male and female. One was only eight years old. (Getty)