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BBC in crisis as presenter accused of paying teenager for explicit pictures is suspended

BBC is ‘in contact with family’ of alleged victim

Archie Mitchell,Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Sunday 09 July 2023 22:51 BST
BBC presenter accused of ‘paying teen thousands for explicit pictures’

The BBC was today plunged into crisis as a top presenter was suspended over allegations he paid a teenager tens of thousands of pounds for explicit photos.

The star’s suspension came after a day of extraordinary drama which saw the culture secretary intervene, several high-profile MPs condemn the BBC’s handling of the crisis and the broadcaster contacting the police over the scandal.

BBC director-general Tim Davie said it was “never easy” when the BBC becomes the subject of a news story. But he said allegations had come to light which BBC bosses were taking “incredibly seriously”, confirming a male member of staff had been suspended.

“We are working rapidly to establish the facts,” he said.

New allegations emerged on Sunday night that the BBC presenter made panicked calls to the teenager after the story broke.

According to The Sun, the presenter called the alleged victim last week and asked: “What have you done?” The newspaper also reported the BBC star asked the teenager to call their mother to try and stop the investigation.

Questions remained over why it took seven weeks to suspend the presenter, with Mr Davie confirming the BBC was made aware of a complaint in May. He insisted information came to light on Thursday “of a different nature” which led to the suspension.

It came as:

It is alleged that the TV star, believed to be a household name, paid more than £35,000 in exchange for sexual images and that the teenager used the money to fund a cocaine addiction, which “destroyed” their life.

The mother described how her child, who was said to be 17 when the payments began, turned from a “happy-go-lucky youngster” to a “ghost-like crack addict” in three years.

Neither the presenter nor the teenager have been identified.

The mother, who said she wanted no payment for the story, complained to the BBC in May and begged them to make the presenter “stop sending the cash”, according to The Sun.

Chair of parliament’s culture committee Dame Caroline Dinenage also spoke with Mr Davie about the crisis on Sunday, saying she had “received assurances that the BBC are treating this matter seriously and with urgency”.

She told The Independent the BBC has “questions to answer” about what has happened since the complaint first came to light in May.

“Clearly it becomes more difficult when this is a private-life issue outside of the workplace,” she said. But she added: “TV companies must have in place the right systems and processes to do what they can to ensure their stars, with disproportionate power and influence over the lives and careers of others, don’t abuse it.”

Meanwhile, Sir Iain said it was clear the corporation had “tried to play this down from the beginning” only for the scandal to “explode”.

“The BBC should act like everybody else does and immediately suspend somebody pending the investigation,” he told GB News.

“That way it’s clear and then you can get on with it. At this stage, to try and do it quietly and behind the scenes – it never works because somebody has blown the gaff and they’re in trouble now. I don’t quite know what they’re doing. It’s a mess.”

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the allegations were “deeply concerning” and called for the BBC to “get a grip”.

Ms Reeves said the BBC and other broadcasters appeared to be lurching “from one scandal to another”, and its handling so far had “not been good enough”.

She told Sky News: “Someone makes a complaint and then puts on the telly the next night and they are still there, and that is not good enough.”

Ms Reeves added: “The investigations need to be much swifter, [and] action needs to be taken quicker when there are serious complaints like this.”

Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel told The Sun the allegations were “absolutely horrendous”. She said the BBC’s response was “derisory” and that it must provide the accuser and their family with a “full and transparent investigation”.

Following a meeting with Mr Davie, Ms Frazer said she had been assured the BBC is investigating “swiftly and sensitively”.

She said: “Given the nature of the allegations it is important that the BBC is now given the space to conduct its investigation, establish the facts and take appropriate action.”

Telling The Sun how the presenter stripped to his underwear during a video call, the mother of the teenager at the centre of the allegations said: “I loved watching him on TV. So I was shocked to see a picture of him sitting on a sofa in his house in his underwear.

“I immediately recognised him. He was leaning forward getting ready for my child to perform for him.

“My child told me, ‘I have shown things’ and this was a picture from some kind of video call.”

She said in June that her child – now aged 20 – told her they had been sent a £1,000 payment on PayPal, adding that it was “obvious” the presenter had not been spoken to after the complaint on 19 May.

“We never wanted an investigation. We just wanted the BBC to tell him to stop,” she said.

A Met Police spokesperson said: “The Met has received initial contact from the BBC in relation to this matter, but no formal referral or allegation has been made.

“We will require additional information before determining what further action should follow.”

On Saturday, amid speculation on social media, a number of BBC stars tweeted to say they were not the presenter in the scandal.

TV presenter Rylan Clark tweeted: “Not sure why my name’s floating about but re that story in the sun – that ain’t me babe.

“I’m currently filming a show in Italy for the bbc, so take my name out ya mouths.”

Jeremy Vine followed suit, tweeting shortly after: “Just to say I’m very much looking forward to hosting my radio show on Monday – whoever the ‘BBC Presenter’ in the news is, I have the same message for you as Rylan did earlier: it certainly ain’t me.”

While Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker did not specifically mention the allegations, he tweeted: “Hate to disappoint the haters but it’s not me.”

It is the latest crisis to engulf Mr Davie, who survived calls to resign after Mr Lineker was briefly taken off air in March when the former England footballer criticised home secretary Suella Braverman’s “cruel” asylum policy.

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