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July 11, 2023

Police ask BBC to pause investigation into unnamed presenter

BBC issues update on police and internal investigations into presenter.

By Bron Maher

The BBC says it has been asked to pause its investigations into allegations against an un-named presenter “while the police scope future work”.

Director-general Tim Davie said the corporation has not been given an indication of how long the pause might last.

What has happened with the investigation into the presenter?

On Tuesday the BBC released a timeline revealing when it first received complaints about its employee and how it responded.

The broadcaster said it first received a complaint about the presenter on 18 May, when the family member who later complained to The Sun attended a BBC building.

The complainant contacted BBC Audiences Services the next day, and their complaint was referred on to the BBC Corporate Investigations Team.

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The Corporate Investigations Team, the BBC says, decided the same day the complaint “did not include an allegation of criminality, but nonetheless merited further investigation”. The team allegedly reached out to the complainant seeking further information to verify both the claims and the identity of the complainant, but did not receive a response.

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On 6 June the Corporate Investigations Team attempted to contact the phone number provided by the complainant, but the call did not connect. The case remained open, but was not referred up to senior management.

The Sun contacted the BBC press office on 6 July regarding its story, which included new allegations of criminality by the presenter. This prompted the BBC to initiate “an incident management group to lead the response to this case, involving senior BBC executives including the Director-General”.

At this point Tim Davie and the BBC Board were alerted to the allegations, and a senior manager held the first conversation on the matter with the presenter concerned.

On 7 July the BBC says the Corporate Investigations Team contacted the complainant again, who sent the corporation materials related to the complaint over the following two days.

The Sun published front-page allegations that an un-named BBC presenter had paid thousands to a 17-year-old for sexually explicit images online on the evening of 7th July and in print the following day.

The police yesterday requested the BBC pause its investigation.

[Read more: Sun versus BBC – Only one can survive undamaged from presenter ‘sex scandal’]

When was the presenter told about the allegations?

At a press conference originally organised to launch the BBC’s 2022/23 annual report on Tuesday morning – but which revolved almost entirely around the allegations – Tim Davie said the BBC did not talk to the presenter about the allegations until 6 July, when The Sun sought comment for its story.

Davie defended the BBC’s current practice of taking verification steps on a complaint before contacting the subject of any allegations.

“I believe, and I think it’s right and fair-minded, that [Corporate Investigations] should make contact with the individual who made that initial allegation to audience services and get some verification and talk to that person and understand exactly what they’re dealing with before they raise that with an individual.”

The director-general refused to be drawn on whether the presenter was likely to return on-air: “This is very complex, very fast moving. We’ve got to respond appropriately to serious allegations, balance duty of care, get across the legal issues in terms of privacy and the public interest.

“What my [desired] outcome is [is] that we navigate that course fairly, with due consideration for those elements. And frankly, act reasonably and transparently throughout, and appropriately, to get to the right outcome. Beyond that, I haven’t got an objective – it is simply to do the right thing.”

Asked why the complaints were not flagged to BBC executives earlier, Davie said: “Unfortunately in this process, there was no response [from the complainant]… and that then led the case to be left open, and we’d go back over time to check in, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get more information.”

He said he had asked BBC chief operating officer Leigh Tavaziva to conduct a review “of where things are red-flagged and how they’re red-flagged”.

Davie said it was “too early to say how this impacts the BBCs reputation in terms of trust”.

But he added: “I don’t think anyone could argue that, during the various storms and travails of the BBC, the BBC newsroom has not been suitably muscular in terms of reporting those issues, and I think that builds public trust.”

[Read more: Sun BBC presenter sex scandal scoop prompts Twitter libel actions]

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • CEO
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  • CFO
  • CTO
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  • Head of Department/Function
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Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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