(London) Pressed by the government, the BBC said on Sunday it was investigating and suspending one of its presenters, accused in the press by a mother of having paid her child to send him child pornography photos.
The tabloid The Sun published the testimony of this mother on Friday evening, accusing a star BBC presenter, without naming him, of having given, in exchange for child pornography photos, several tens of thousands of pounds to her child then 17 years old, without specifying whether it is a girl or a boy.
According to the daily, the family contacted the BBC on May 19 to inform them of the situation, but the presenter remained on the air for several more weeks.
Shortly after an emergency phone call between Culture Minister Lucy Frazer and the public broadcaster’s chief executive, Tim Davie, the BBC said in a statement “that a male member of its staff has been suspended”. and that the group “strive to establish the facts as quickly as possible”.
“This is a complex and rapidly changing set of circumstances” and “it is important that these topics are handled fairly and carefully,” the group added.
“We have also contacted outside authorities, in accordance with our protocols,” the BBC said.
On Sunday evening, London police said they had been made aware of the case by the BBC “but no formal referrals or allegations have been made”.
“We will need more information before determining what further steps to take,” the Metropolitan Police said.
The allegations, which are making headlines in the UK media, sparked strong reactions from the political class, and the Ministry of Culture had urged the BBC to investigate “urgently and sensitively”.
“Given the nature of the accusations, it is important to give the BBC time to investigate, establish the facts and take appropriate action,” the Culture Minister also tweeted.
In its press release, the group confirms that it was informed “in May” of a complaint, and that “new allegations” reached it on Thursday.
“The BBC investigative team has been looking into (this matter) since it was first reported and the case is being actively followed up,” Tim Davie said in an internal memo quoted by the PA news agency.
The BBC had already said on Friday “treat all accusations very seriously” and have “a procedure in place to deal with them proactively”.
This is an embarrassing new affair for the public audiovisual group, whose impartiality is regularly questioned and whose president had to resign in April in a conflict of interest case for having helped, before his appointment to the head of the BBC, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to obtain a loan.
Former Home Secretary and Tory MP Priti Patel on Twitter called the BBC’s response to the new case “derisory”.
“The BBC, but the other channels too, have to pull themselves together, because we seem to be going from scandal to scandal,” Labor opposition MP Rachel Reeves also reacted on Sky News on Sunday.
Last May, the star host of the private channel ITV Phillip Schofield resigned after acknowledging an intimate relationship with a young colleague he had helped to hire.
The management of the channel had been implicated for its management of the affair, even within Parliament.