Government in showdown with TV bosses over scandal of presenter accused of 'paying teen £35k for explicit photos'

9 July 2023, 11:25 | Updated: 9 July 2023, 12:47

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer will hold talks with the BBC director-general later on Sunday
Culture secretary Lucy Frazer will hold talks with the BBC director-general later on Sunday. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The culture secretary will hold talks with TV bosses over the scandal of a famous male presenter accused of paying a teenager £35,000 for sexually explicit photos.

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Lucy Frazer will meet with BBC Director-General Tim Davie on Sunday to discuss the allegations, made by the mother of the youngster about a presenter at the corporation.

In a statement ahead of the meeting, a Department of Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: "As a public service broadcaster in receipt of public funding, senior officials have stressed to the BBC that the allegations must be investigated urgently and sensitively, with the department kept informed.

"The culture secretary will be speaking to Tim Davie later today."

The mother of the alleged victim, who is now 20, said the money, paid over three years, had funded her child's crack cocaine addiction and turned them into a "ghost" of their former self.

Several more details have emerged after the initial accusation, including claims that the unnamed BBC presenter socialised with corporation bosses after the claim was first made in May, and that he had a video call with the youth in his underwear.

The presenter has since been taken off the air.

Ms Frazer's meeting today comes after politicians from both the Conservatives and Labour urged the broadcaster to get to the bottom of the issue.

Ms Atkins, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: "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."

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Victoria Atkins
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Victoria Atkins. Picture: Alamy

Labour's shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said: "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."

The mother of the teen told the Sun that pictures were exchanged between her child and the presenter from when the youth was just 17.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves. Picture: Alamy

Describing the moment she realised what was going on, the woman 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.

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

Rylan Clark has denied any connection to the allegations
Rylan Clark has denied any connection to the allegations. Picture: Alamy

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

The mother made the first complaint to the corporation in May this year.

But executives are said to have partied with the presenter weeks after allegations came in, the Mirror reported.

One party guest told the newspaper: “If this man was aware of what was hanging over him, he certainly didn’t show it.”

The presenter is also still getting his six-figure salary in full, according to reports.

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But he could also face legal woes.

According to the Protection of Children Act 1978, it's illegal to "make, distribute, possess or show any indecent images of anyone aged under 18, even if the content was created with the consent of that young person”.

It's also illegal to "ask a child to send a sexual image of themselves".

Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal told The Times they could also be charged with sexual exploitation under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

He said he was “surprised that this person was not suspended once they became aware of the gravity of the allegation”.

Jeremy Vine also tweeted to distance himself from any accusations
Jeremy Vine also tweeted to distance himself from any accusations. Picture: Alamy

Some of the BBC's best-known faces rushed to distance themselves from any connection to the case.

Gary Lineker tweeted on Saturday afternoon: "Hate to disappoint the haters but it’s not me."

Rylan Clark had tweeted earlier that day: "Not sure why my names floating about but re that story in The Sun - that ain't me babe."

And Jeremy Vine posted: "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."

Nick Campbell also threatened to sue for libel those accusing him of being the perpetrator on social media.

Gary Lineker also denied any involvement
Gary Lineker also denied any involvement. Picture: Alamy

The teenager is said to have used the money to pay for crack cocaine that has destroyed their life, according to their mother.

"When I see him on telly, I feel sick," the mother said of the TV star.

"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.”

She said how her child, now aged 20, had transformed from "a happy-go-lucky youngster to a ghost-like crack addict" in the three years since the payment began.

She added: "We’ve always had a close relationship. My child would be like, ‘Oh, the presenter is giving me money later,’ or, ‘He’s giving me £500.’ and ‘I’m going out tonight because he’s given me money’.”

"I didn’t like what I was being told but I didn’t want my child to stop confiding in me. The presenter never hid his job. He even sent a picture of his desk at work to my child which I saw."

The mother went on: "We just wanted the BBC to tell him to stop. I’ve had three years of hell. The impact of this has been terrifying.

"My child was always a great student but there’s been a radical change of behaviour. It’s heartbreaking.

"In my mind that man was supplying the crack. My child wouldn’t have access to this money if it wasn’t for him.

“If it goes on then my child is going to wind up dead. Putting this out to the public is the only way to stop it."

The presenter is said to have paid thousands of pounds at a time into the bank account of the teenager, including one lump sum of £5,000.

Nicky Campbell threatened to sue for libel anyone who stated he was the man involved
Nicky Campbell threatened to sue for libel anyone who stated he was the man involved. Picture: Alamy

In response to initial reports, a BBC spokesperson said: "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."

The corporation said later that the head of their corporate investigations team was leading the probe.

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