Fran Unsworth, the Deputy Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC, told those gathered at the Royal Television Society on Tuesday (9 September) that “BBC News breaks stories every day. This one was obviously more prominent, because of the nature.”
To the session’s chair, renowned journalist Stewart Purvis, she questioned: "If a reporter came to you and said, 'I've got this story that South Yorkshire Police are investigating an historic sex allegation against Cliff Richard, and what's more they've told me they're going to search his house tomorrow, they've even sent me an aerial photograph of the house,' do you think it's up to me to say, 'Oh I don't think we'll tell the viewer about that, that's not the kind of story the BBC does'?"
"We should start from the principle, why wouldn't the BBC report something, not whether this is a BBC story or not," she added.
Her comments come as Sir Cliff’s long-time friend Gloria Hunniford spoke of his anguish over the allegation – which he has vehemently and publicly denied.
Cliff Richard: Life in pictures
Cliff Richard: Life in pictures
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Richard aged 18 at the Hulton Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia's Disc Theatre in August 1959 when he was lead singer of the Drifters
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Pictured in 1962 with members of the Shadows, his backing group. Next to him is Bruce Welch, who played rhythm guitar
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With his backing group, the Shadows, Richard became a massive pop star in the 1960s with a string of hit albums and singles including ‘I love You’ (1960), ‘the Young Ones (1961), Bachelor Boy (1962) and ‘Summer Holiday (1963)
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With his mother, Dorothy, and one of his sisters in 1964
Michael Stroud/Daily Express/Hulton Archive
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Outside the Royal Albert Hall where he represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in October 1967
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Cliff Richard in 1968
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Cliff Richard poses in front of his disc awards in the 1970s
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On stage at the 1981 Royal Variety Performance, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London
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In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2008, Sir Cliff is reported as saying: "Of all the women I've known, there were only two that I've come close to marrying. One was Jackie Irving, a dancer whom I met in Blackpool. She was utterly beautiful and for a while we were inseparable. The other girl I came close to asking was Sue Barker, whom I met in 1982"
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Orchestrating a round of singing as rain delays play during the 1996 Wimbledon tennis championships
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Performing a duet with Flemish singer Helmut Lotti during a rehearsal of Lotti's album and TV broadcast 'Pop Classics' on 6 August 2003 in Brussels
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Performing on stage during the 'Intelligent Finance Cliff Richard Tennis Classic' at Birmingham National Indoor Arena on 18 December 2004
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Arriving with Brian May at the Royal Film Performance and World Premiere of 'The Chronicles Of Narnia' at the Royal Albert Hall on 7 December 2005 in London
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Unveiling a plaque of his handprints in Wembley Arena's Square of Fame on 9 November 2006 in London
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Sir Cliff Richard and The Shadows performs live on stage at the O2 Arena in London on 28 September 2009
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Cliff Richard attends a press conference to announce details of his new album at Gilgamesh on 7 March 2011 in London
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Queen Elizabeth II is introduced to Sir Cliff Richard backstage after the Diamond Jubilee, Buckingham Palace Concert on 4 June 2012, along with Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, and Shirely Bassey
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Sir Cliff Richard at the 2012 US Open. The crooner claimed One Direction still compete with him to 'look cool'
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Performing on stage during the Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012
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Cliff Richard attends the 'Willkommen bei Carmen Nebel' show at Volkswagen Halle on 23 November 2013 in Braunschweig, Germany
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Richard, 73, is one of the most successful British recording artists
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Sir Cliff, born Harry Webb, has sold an estimated 21.5 million singles in the UK and 250 million worldwide during a career spanning over 50 years
Speaking on Loose Women, she said: "He’s totally devastated because he’s got no idea of course who his accuser is and these are his words... He is appalled about what he regards as a completely false accusation.
"He couldn’t believe that this would actually put him through such agony."
Police in South Yorkshire descended upon Sir Cliff’s home in Berkshire to look into claims that he sexually assaulted a boy under the age of 16 at a religious event in 1985.
"For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulated online," Sir Cliff said in a statement at the time of the raid.
"The allegations are completely false. Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.
"However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear, to the press.
"I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will co-operate fully should the police wish to speak to me.
"Beyond stating that today's allegation is completely false it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded."
He was not been arrested or charged, but was interviewed by police under caution.
Last week, the BBC announced a proposal to release confidential communications between its journalists and South Yorkshire Police after being angered at comments by the Chief Constable regarding its coverage of the raid.
James Harding, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, wrote to David Crompton, head of the embattled police force which is also under fire over its handling of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, asking whether he will authorise him to release emails, text messages and the contents of “off-the-record conversations” between the two organisations.Reuse content