BBC chief Tony Hall refuses to apologise for Cliff Richard raid coverage

The singer said he planned to sue the BBC and police over the live coverage

Tuesday 12 July 2016 18:07
A statement from the BBC said it 'applied normal editorial judgements' the story
A statement from the BBC said it 'applied normal editorial judgements' the story

BBC Director-General Tony Hall has refused to apologise for the corporation's live coverage of a raid at Sir Cliff Richard's home, but expressed regret at the distress caused to the singer.

Speaking to reporters at the launch of the BBC's annual report, Lord Hall said the corporation stands by its coverage of the police raid in August 2014 and added that the BBC would “respond in due course” to a letter received from Sir Cliff's lawyers.

Sir Cliff confirmed at the weekend that he planned to sue the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over live coverage of the raid at his home. Officers investigating allegations of historic sex offences were filmed searching Sir Cliff's apartment in Berkshire, leading to him being publicly named as part of the probe. The 75-year-old was never arrested or charged.

Lord Hall said: “Well, we've said two things publicly. On one hand, we've said Sir Cliff – who is a fabulous entertainer and has done great things for the BBC over very many years –we've said we're sorry for the stress he's been caused over the last couple of years.

“We've also said that the Home Affairs Select Committee reviewed – they had myself, James (Purnell) and others in front of them including South Yorkshire Police – they reviewed our decisions and said we see nothing wrong in the BBC decision to run the story, and I think that's right.

“If the police are investigating a matter which is of public interest and concern then we should report that. And by the way, it's not just us, it's all our colleagues in broadcast media and newspapers as well. That's all I really want to say, yes, we have received a letter... and we will respond to that in due course.”

When asked if there would be an apology to Sir Cliff, he said: “I've said what I said.”

In June, the Crown Prosecution Service dismissed the case on grounds of insufficient evidence. Both the BBC and South Yorkshire Police have apologised to the singer.

A statement from the BBC on 21 June said it “applied normal editorial judgements” to covering the story, but added: “The BBC is very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard, who has worked as a musician and performer for so many years with the organisation, has suffered distress.”

Answering questions on another controversy, Lord Hall said he was grateful to former Top Gear host Chris Evans for all the “work he put in” to the show.

The BBC boss said he agreed that Evans had “given the programme his very best”.

Evans announced on Twitter that he was stepping down from hosting the popular motoring show after just one series.

He said he felt he “gave it my best shot but sometimes that's not enough,” adding “the team are beyond brilliant, I wish them all the best”.

Lord Hall said: “He decided to resign, he said he gave the programme his very best, I completely agree he absolutely did. It's no easy task to be launching a programme as important as Top Gear and I am really grateful to him, as is the whole of the BBC, for all the work he put in and his energy into that.”

Following his departure, Evans praised his co-host, Friends actor Matt LeBlanc, calling him the “captain” the show needs.

“When you look at the team left behind, then I think you can see a team there that's going to take the programme on to great heights, so I'm very hopeful,” Lord Hall said. “I'll say no more about that at the moment.”

The post-Brexit political turmoil could have an impact on negotiations in the run-up to the new royal charter, Lord Hall admitted.

He told reporters: “I won't say anything about the timetable because what I think we have all learnt over the last two-and-a-half weeks is, you start the day thinking one thing and then by lunchtime the world looks completely different.”

The current 10-year royal charter will expire on 31 December. The Government set out its plans for the new 11-year charter in a White Paper in May.

Lord Hall continued: “I think we've made a huge amount of progress on the charter, working with John Whittingdale and DCMS [the Department for Culture, Media and Sport], I'm hopeful that we can get that out as soon as we are able, but obviously with a new government being formed tomorrow and on Thursday and whenever, we'll just have to see.”

He said negotiations so far had been “good, hard, tough, difficult”, but added: “We've got to a place which I think is right and I think the Government thinks is right as a whole.”

On the appointment of a new Prime Minister to replace David Cameron, he said: “I have no reason to think Theresa May won't think it's right.” PA

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