BBC director-general George Entwistle has apologised to victims of Sir Jimmy Savile's alleged sex abuse and pledged the corporation will hold its own inquiry following a police probe.
Mr Entwistle, who started in his new role only last month, spoke of deep regret about the ordeals of the women involved in the "awful allegations", and said there would be a "comprehensive examination" of what went on.
The late radio and TV presenter has been accused by a growing number of women of sexual abuse over a number of years.
He spoke out a day after Prime Minister David Cameron called for the "truly shocking" allegations against Sir Jimmy to be fully investigated.
Last week the BBC said it would work with the police in examining the claims and on Friday Mr Entwistle wrote to staff urging them to come forward with information.
And speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "These are awful allegations that have been made, and they are criminal allegations.
"And the first thing I want to say is that the women involved here have gone through something awful, something I deeply regret they should have to go through, and I would like to apologise on behalf of the organisation to each and every one of them for what they've had to endure here."
He went on: "When the police have finished everything they have to do, and when they give me an assurance that there is no danger of us in any way compromising or contaminating an investigation, I will take it further and ensure that any outstanding questions are answered properly."
A growing number of women have come forward to claim they were either abused - many of them under-age - or that they saw others who were victims. A number of former colleagues have told how they were aware of rumours about the former Top Of The Pops presenter.
Unease about the claims has led to a number of memorials to the star being removed. An inscription on the wall at Leeds Civic Hall in recognition of his charity work will be taken down. A street sign in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, was also taken away in the past few days.