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BBC suspends staff member following allegations unnamed presenter paid teen for explicit photos

Yesterday, amidst speculation on social media, a number of BBC stars tweeted to say they were not the presenter at the centre of The Sun story.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 9th 2023, 3:27 PM

A MALE MEMBER of staff has been suspended following allegations an unnamed BBC presenter paid a teenager for sexually explicit images, the BBC said.

The Sun has reported that  the unnamed BBC star has been accused of paying a teenager more than £35,000 in exchange for sexual images.

Neither the individual or the teenager, who was said to be 17 when the payments began, was identified.

The teenager’s mother told The Sun she saw a picture of the presenter on her child’s phone “sitting on a sofa in his house in his underwear”.

The mother said she was told it was “a picture from some kind of video call” and looked like he was “getting ready for my child to perform for him”.

The family were said to have complained to the BBC on 19 May but allegedly became frustrated that the star remained on air.

In a statement this afternoon, the BBC confirmed that a male member of staff has been suspended following the allegations. 

“The BBC first became aware of a complaint in May,” a BBC spokesperon said. 

“New allegations were put to us on Thursday of a different nature and in addition to our own inquiries we have also been in touch with external authorities, in line with our protocols,” the spokesperson said. 

“We can also confirm a male member of staff has been suspended,” they added. 

“We expect to be in a position to provide a further update in the coming days as the process continues. The BBC board will continue to be kept up to date.”

The spokesperson added that “the BBC takes any allegations seriously and we have robust internal processes in place to proactively deal with such allegations”.

“This is a complex and fast-moving set of circumstances and the BBC is working as quickly as possible to establish the facts in order to properly inform appropriate next steps,” they said. 

“It is important that these matters are handled fairly and with care.

“We have been clear that if – at any point – new information comes to light or is provided to us, this will be acted upon appropriately and actively followed up.”

Reaction

Earlier, the UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has said BBC director-general Tim Davie has assured her the corporation is investigating the allegations “swiftly and sensitively”.

Her comments come after the Culture Secretary urgently spoke to Davie today.

Following the phone call, she tweeted: “I have spoken to BBC director-general Tim Davie about the deeply concerning allegations involving one of its presenters.

“He has assured me the BBC are investigating swiftly and sensitively.”

She added: “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. I will be kept updated.”

In a note sent to staff and seen by the PA news agency, Davie said he is “wholly condemning the unsubstantiated rumours being made on the internet about some of our presenting talent”.

Davie said the corporation takes “all such allegations incredibly seriously”.

The note further said: “The BBC became aware of a complaint in May; the BBC investigations team have been looking into this since it was raised and have been actively following up.

“New allegations, of a different nature, were put to us on Thursday, and in addition to our own enquiries we have also been in touch with external authorities, in line with our protocols.

“I can also confirm that we have suspended a member of staff.”

He added: “By law, individuals are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy, which is making this situation more complex. I also want to be very clear that I am wholly condemning the unsubstantiated rumours being made on the internet about some of our presenting talent.

“We are in contact with the family referenced in the media reports. I want to assure you that we are working rapidly to establish the facts and to ensure that these matters are handled fairly and with care, including by external authorities where appropriate.”

Victoria Atkins, the financial secretary to the Treasury, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “These are very, very serious allegations and the BBC have said they have processes in place.

But as public attention and concern grows the BBC is going to have to act very swiftly to deal with these allegations and to set out what they are doing to investigate them.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves urged the broadcasters to “speed up their processes” in investigating such allegations.

The Labour MP told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “I do feel that I often come on this programme and we do start with another crisis at the BBC.

“The BBC do need to speed up their processes, it looks like these issues were raised in May, we’re now in July and the presenter stayed on air.

“That’s not good enough so the BBC need to get their house in order and give greater clarity to what on earth has gone on in this case and what they are trying to do to put it right.”

Former home secretary Priti Patel said the BBC’s response has been “derisory”.

“They must provide the victim and his family a full and transparent investigation,” she said.

“The BBC, which is funded by licence fee-payers, has become a faceless and unaccountable organisation.”

Media lawyer Mark Stephens said the BBC handling of the complaint had been a “shambles”, arguing it had “really dropped the ball”.

“And it does seem that they’ve also caused this to escalate, because it was the frustration with the BBC not acting that led to the family to go to the Sun newspaper,” he told Times Radio.

“And that I think is reckless, because of course what has happened is we’ve seen all this conjecture on social media.”

A number of BBC stars publicly said they were not the presenter at the centre of the allegations, amid heavy speculation about the identity on social media.

Gary Lineker tweeted: “Hate to disappoint the haters but it’s not me.”

Rylan Clark wrote: “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 said: “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.”

Nicky Campbell suggested he had contacted police about being falsely mentioned online in connection with the story.

He tweeted a screenshot which featured the Metropolitan Police logo and the words: “Thank you for contacting the Metropolitan Police Service to report your crime.”

“I think it’s important to take a stand. There’s just too many of these people on social media. Thanks for your support friends,” he wrote.

Includes reporting by Press Association