(LONDON) The BBC on Tuesday defended its actions after sexual accusations against one of its star presenters, whose name has not been released, plunged the public broadcasting group into turmoil.
The case has been making headlines in Britain since the Sun tabloid wrote that a star presenter allegedly paid an underage person in exchange for “sleazy” photos.
“This is clearly a complex and difficult situation and we have to manage a number of factors: properly responding to serious allegations […] respecting the privacy of individuals and the legitimate public interest,” the chief executive of the public broadcasting giant Tim Davie during a press conference.
Hours later, the BBC reported that another person, aged in their 20s, had received ‘threatening messages’ from the presenter at the heart of the case, after meeting him on a dating app .
As the rumor swells about the identity of the presenter, the audiovisual group detailed in a press release the schedule of actions carried out since it was seized on May 19 by the family of the first alleged victim.
He also announced that he had stopped his investigations at the request of the police, who have not opened a formal investigation at this stage.
The group said it began investigating as early as May 19, although at this stage the family’s complaint “did not contain any criminal allegations.” The BBC says it attempted to contact the family twice at the time, without success.
The BBC’s handling of this affair has been harshly judged in the media and by politicians since the Sun’s revelations last Friday, now disputed by the alleged victim himself.
The article published in the tabloid “contained new accusations, which were different” from the previous ones, argued the BBC.
The newspaper quoted a woman on Friday accusing the BBC presenter of having paid over three years more than 35,000 pounds sterling ($51,000) to her child, a minor at the start of the incident, in exchange for “sordid photos”. We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl.
While UK law sets the age of sexual majority at 16, possessing or disseminating indecent images of anyone under 18 is considered a criminal offence.
The unidentified mother was outraged that the presenter remained on the air for several weeks after she reported his actions to the BBC on May 19.
He was finally suspended on Sunday.
This affair comes at a time when the BBC is the recurring target of attacks on the part of the Conservatives in power and certain media and tabloids, mostly also Conservatives, who accuse it, for example, of bias on the treatment of the Brexit referendum. in 2016, or to defend views deemed too “woke” (designating radical activism on issues related in particular to racism and gender identity).
The Sun, a successful tabloid owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s group, is one of its most vocal critics.
In its Tuesday editorial, the newspaper accused the BBC of having a “shameful history of ignoring complaints about its ‘talent'”.
The audiovisual giant has already been hit by serious sex scandals, including the Jimmy Savile affair, which broke out in 2012 a year after the death of this star host, author of rape and sexual assault on minors for decades.
In a letter sent to BBC News on Monday, the lawyer for the first alleged victim, now 20, called the Sun accusations “hogwash” and assured that nothing “inappropriate or illegal” had taken place.
In response, The Sun assured Tuesday that it had seen bank transfers and screenshots of contacts between the young person and the presenter.
The case also took a political turn. On his way to the NATO summit in Lithuania, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had to assure that he did not know the name of the presenter.
No media has so far published his name, for fear of sanctions. In two previous cases, the BBC and Bloomberg had been found guilty of disclosing the identities of people accused in one case of sexual assault and in the other of fraud.