The chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, says he is dedicated to getting to the bottom of the Jimmy Savile scandal that has engulfed the corporation, vowing there would be "no covering our backs".
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Lord Patten said the BBC's reputation is on the line and that it has risked squandering the public's trust.
Lord Patten has promised the BBC will not hide behind smokescreens, but "must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible".
Speaking of Savile's apparent decades of criminality, he wrote: "Can it really be the case that no one knew what he was doing? Did some turn a blind eye to criminality? Did some prefer not to follow up their suspicions because of this criminal's popularity and place in the schedules? Were reports of criminality put aside or buried? Even those of us who were not there at the time are inheritors of the shame."
Lord Patten also apologised "unreservedly" to the abused women who spoke to the BBC's Newsnight programme but did not have their stories told.
The BBC chairman said the two independent inquiries that have been set up - one into the Newsnight report, the other into the BBC's culture and practices in the years Savile worked there - must get to the truth of what happened.
Lord Patten said: "Now my immediate priority is to get to the bottom of the Savile scandal and to make any and every change necessary in the BBC to learn the lessons from our independent investigations".
Savile's closest relatives have broken their silence to say their "own despair and sadness does not compare to that felt by the victims" who were abused by the late TV presenter.
In a statement released by Savile's nephew, Roger Foster, the family said: "How could the person we thought we knew and loved do such a thing?
"Why would a man who raised so much money for charity, who gave so much of his own time and energy for others, risk it all doing indecent criminal acts? How could anyone live their life doing the 'most good and most evil' at the same time?"