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12 July 2023

BBC presenter allegations: What are the new claims and unanswered questions?

12 July 2023

A male BBC presenter suspended following claims he paid a teenager for sexually explicit pictures continues to come under scrutiny as more allegations are made.

Here the PA news agency looks at what we know and the unanswered questions surrounding the furore.

– What are the claims?

The Sun newspaper published the first claim last Friday that an unnamed BBC presenter paid a young person, said to have been 17 when the payments began, more than £35,000 for sexually explicit images.

Their mother told The Sun she saw a picture of the presenter on her child’s phone “sitting on a sofa in his house in his underwear” which she said she was told was “a picture from some kind of video call”.

A family member of the young person attended a BBC building on May 18 where they sought to make a complaint about the behaviour of the presenter but allegedly became frustrated that the star remained on air.

Following the reports, the young person at the centre of the controversy later said via lawyers, in a letter to the BBC, that nothing inappropriate or unlawful happened with the unnamed presenter.

Their mother later told The Sun she stands by the claims and a spokesperson for the newspaper said it is “now for the BBC to properly investigate”.

Separately, the BBC News reported on Tuesday that a second person in their early 20s has alleged that they were sent threatening messages by the unnamed man.

On The Sun’s front page on Wednesday, the newspaper reported further allegations that a 23-year-old person has claimed the BBC presenter broke lockdown rules to meet them during the pandemic in February 2021.

The paper also reported an additional claim from another person saying the presenter “started a chat with a teen follower from his Instagram account — using love hearts and kisses in his messages”.

According to The Sun, the individual was 17 when the presenter contacted them “out of the blue”.

– Identities of parties are not known

BBC News said it does not know the identity of the young person at the centre of The Sun’s original story reported on Friday and has not spoken to them directly.

But a letter denying the claims on behalf of the young person was sent to the broadcaster on Monday by a multinational law firm.

The identity of the BBC presenter has not been reported.

– Why is the BBC presenter not being named?

Questions have been asked as to why the name of the BBC star has not been published.

Media law experts have explained there was a big change to the way the media approached reporting after Sir Cliff Richard won a privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a 2014 South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, after he was falsely accused of historical sex offences.

Over the years, several cases including that of Sir Cliff have meant it has become much more difficult for the media to name people before they are charged with a criminal offence for fear of defamation and breaching privacy laws.

Similarly, BBC culture and media editor Katie Razzall has said the story is a “series of claims and counter claims” which have yet to be verified, which deters publishers from identifying the BBC presenter.

She said on Wednesday: “There are these discrepancies and I should point out we don’t have access to the full facts. We have seen little, apart from the letter from the lawyer representing the young person involved to the BBC yesterday evening.

“We haven’t seen any of The Sun’s evidence, any of the bank statements the family say they have and that they have shown the newspaper. As it stands we haven’t been able to verify any of this.”

– Could the BBC presenter be named in Parliament?

Parliamentary privilege grants certain legal immunities for members of both houses to allow them to perform their duties without interference from outside of the house, the UK Parliament website says.

Members of Parliament could use their parliamentary privilege to unmask the suspended and unnamed BBC presenter without risk of defamation.

MPs have previously named stars protected by the courts, including former Topshop owner Sir Philip Green who was named by former cabinet minister Lord Hain despite an injunction preventing a newspaper from identifying the businessman in relation to allegations against him.

Similarly, in 2011 Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming told Parliament that footballer Ryan Giggs had obtained an injunction regarding an allegation.

– What has the BBC said so far?

The BBC said it treats any allegations “very seriously” and it has “processes in place to proactively deal with them”.

This week the corporation unveiled its annual report, revealing the salaries of its top on-air talent. During a briefing with media on Tuesday the BBC’s director-general Tim Davie said he has ordered a review to “assess how some complaints are red flagged up the organisation”.

In a message to staff at the weekend, Mr Davie also said he is “wholly condemning the unsubstantiated rumours being made on the internet about some of our presenting talent” after several BBC presenters were forced to state publicly they were not the individual in question amid heavy speculation about the identity on social media.

In addition, the corporation has been asked to pause its internal investigation into the allegations “while the police scope future work” following a meeting with the Metropolitan Police.

BBC News said it contacted the presenter via his lawyer in relation to its claims reported on Tuesday that a second young person had received alleged threatening messages by the unnamed man, but had received no response to the allegations.

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