BBC bosses panicking over claims that one of its biggest stars paid a vulnerable teenager £35,000 for sexual images held crisis talks last night as questions over their ‘derisory’ investigations grew.
The presenter, who has not been named but is described as being well-known, allegedly began paying the teenager when they were 17, and sent them the money which they used to fund an addiction to crack cocaine.
The lurid speculation was sparked by a newspaper report that the youngster’s family had complained about the behaviour of the ‘household name’ seven weeks ago, but had been unhappy with the BBC response.
Last night, former Home Secretary Priti Patel called the broadcaster’s treatment of the complaint ‘derisory’.
The presenter at the heart of the investigation has reportedly been taken off air
Last night, former Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured) called the broadcaster’s treatment of the complaint ‘derisory’
The sleaze scandal will heap pressure on BBC Director-General Tim Davie (pictured), who is set to face the press at the corporation’s annual report on Tuesday
And as panicking executives held crisis meetings, some presenters, including Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker and Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine, felt compelled to publicly distance themselves from the allegations.
The mother apparently discovered the alleged payments were funding her now 20-year-old child’s ‘spiralling’ drugs habit. She is said to have ‘begged’ BBC chiefs to make the star ‘stop sending the cash’.
She told the Sun she feels ‘sick’ whenever she sees the man on television.
Last night, the Corporation refused to confirm what, if any, action it had taken and whether it had confronted the presenter.
However, the star has not been suspended – although he is not currently scheduled to be on air.
The scandal comes as the Corporation faces new questions about its funding, with Tory Ministers drawing up plans to cut the licence fee in real terms.
Ms Patel insisted the BBC ‘must provide the victim and his family a full and transparent investigation’.
She added: ‘The BBC, which is funded by licence fee payers, has become a faceless and unaccountable organisation.’
Fellow Conservative MP Paul Bristow said: ‘What is being suggested is incredibly serious. The BBC must be completely transparent on how it is dealing with this complaint. No ifs, no buts. They need to let the licence fee paying public know what they are doing and what they propose to do.’
Senior BBC figures are anxious to avoid accusations of inaction, the claim levelled at ITV chiefs over its handling of the Phillip Schofield scandal. Corporation sources said they were aware some stars were being wrongly linked to the claims but would only say: ‘We are fully aware of this and it will be dealt with internally.’
The BBC has yet to say if it considered evidence from the alleged victim’s family or if any was offered.
Even the broadcaster’s own culture editor, Katie Razzall, said many questions remain unanswered, including whether or not it was appropriate for the presenter to stay on air. She also warned that if the allegation was proven it would mean the career of a high-profile BBC figure is likely to be over.
BBC News entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba yesterday said that the unnamed presenter will not appear on air in the near future.
He told the BBC News channel: ‘We understand that the presenter is currently not scheduled to be on air in the near future.’
As panicking executives held crisis meetings, some presenters, including Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker (pictured) felt compelled to distance themselves from the allegations
Jeremy Vine (pictured) has also distanced himself from the allegations yesterday
Rylan Clark also earlier took to social media to clear his name amid reports that a top BBC star paid a vulnerable teenager £35,000 for sexual pictures
The alleged victim’s mother told The Sun: ‘I blame this BBC man for destroying my child’s life – taking my child’s innocence and handing over the money for crack cocaine that could kill my child… Whenever I see him on telly, I feel sick.’
Sleazy messages are alleged to have started in 2020, when the youngster was 17. The family say the BBC presenter never hid his identity and even sent pictures of himself at work. The alleged victim’s mother claimed her child showed her an online bank statement containing numerous deposits from the presenter. It is not clear if the BBC has seen the same statement.
Yesterday, as feverish speculation grew on social media, Lineker said: ‘Hate to disappoint the haters but it’s not me.’ Presenter Rylan Clark tweeted: ‘Not sure why my names floating about but re that story in the Sun – that ain’t me babe.’
And 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.’
Radio 5 Live host Nicky Campbell yesterday said he had reported a social media user for wrongly accusing him of being the man at the centre of the story.
The troll posted a picture of Mr Campbell on Twitter alongside the words: ‘This is the BBC host who paid teenager for sexually explicit photos.’ The star then showed a response from the Metropolitan Police confirming he had contacted them about the crime. Mr Campbell wrote: ‘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.’
A source close to another star accused described the false social media slurs as ‘deeply worrying’ for both ‘the talent and the BBC’.
Criticism was also made on social media, with one user writing: ‘They were approached by the child’s parents with proof back in May! I’ve carried out many workplace investigations in my time and it certainly doesn’t take months!’
The BBC said in a statement that it treats any allegations ‘very seriously’, though it appeared to suggest that its initial investigation may have been hampered by a lack of response from the family.
The star was said to have requested ‘performances’ from the individual, now aged 20, who told their mother they would then ‘get their bits out’.
It is claimed the presenter sent hundreds or even thousands of pounds at once, once depositing a sum of £5,000 in the teenager’s bank account.
The stricken mother said: ‘Whenever I see him on telly, I feel sick.
‘I blame this BBC man for destroying my child’s life — taking my child’s innocence and handing over the money for crack cocaine that could kill my child.’
Radio 5 Live host Nicky Campbell (pictured) yesterday said he had reported a social media user for wrongly accusing him of being the man at the centre of the story
A formal complaint was made to the BBC by the family two months ago, begging bosses to stop the behaviour towards their child, now 20
She continued: ‘The money had been in exchange for sexually explicit photographs of my child.’
The explicit messages are said to have started in 2020. The family said the star did not hide his identity and even sent photographs to the teen while he was at work.
The mother told the Sun their child went from a ‘happy-go-lucky youngster to a ghost-like crack addict’ in just three years.
A BBC spokesperson said of the allegations: ‘We treat any allegations very seriously and we have processes in place to proactively deal with them.
‘As part of that, if we receive information that requires further investigation or examination we will take steps to do this. That includes actively attempting to speak to those who have contacted us in order to seek further detail and understanding of the situation.
‘If we get no reply to our attempts or receive no further contact that can limit our ability to progress things but it does not mean our enquiries stop.
‘If, at any point, new information comes to light or is provided – including via newspapers – this will be acted upon appropriately, in line with internal processes.