The BBC has been accused of mishandling an investigation into a high-profile presenter accused of paying thousands of pounds to a vulnerable teenager for explicit photos and videos.
The unidentified presenter is alleged to have sent more than £35,000 to the then-teenager, starting three years ago when he was 17, which he is said to have used to finance a crack cocaine addiction.
Dame Caroline Dinenage, who chairs the culture, media and sport committee, said she was concerned the corporation had taken “a long time” to investigate the allegations, during which time the star would have sent additional payments to the teenager and continued to broadcast on BBC.
The recipient’s mother said she blamed the BBC presenter for “destroying my son’s life” and “felt sick” when she saw he was still on TV after first making a complaint.
Dame Priti Patel, former Home Secretary, said the BBC’s response had been “laughable” and called for a “full and transparent investigation”. She added: “The BBC, which is funded by license fee payers, has become a faceless and unaccountable organisation.”
‘BBC should investigate very quickly’
On Saturday, the station’s top anchors publicly denied being the person at the center of the allegations amid wild and widespread speculation about the man’s identity.
In the hours after The Sun first reported the story, Jeremy Vine and Rylan Clark, both Radio 2 presenters, issued statements denying their involvement.
Writing on Twitter, Vine said: “Just to say I’m really looking forward to hosting my radio show on Monday; whoever is “BBC Presenter” on the news, I have the same message for you that Rylan did earlier: it’s certainly not me.
Dame Caroline said publicly funded broadcasters had a responsibility to ensure there was a workplace that prevented the “broadcasting gods” from using their “exceptional power and influence” for personal gain.
He added: “When these issues are reported…it is absolutely vital that they have the right systems and processes in place so that they can be investigated and dealt with very quickly. We need to make sure that HR takes allegations like this incredibly seriously.
“The BBC should investigate this very quickly and thoroughly, because it is clearly a matter of great concern.”
Dame Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morely and Outwood, said: “The public deserves to know what the BBC did to investigate why a taxpayer-funded presenter was sending thousands of pounds in cash to a 17-year-old.”
Defund the BBC, a campaign group, said the dispute had shown the broadcaster “could not control itself” and instead chose to “prevaricate and cover up”.
‘Take away my son’s innocence’
The BBC reportedly first learned of the claims on May 19. It has been reported that a further payment has since been made to the person, with his mother claiming that she “begged” the BBC to stop the man from sending money.
The corporation did not confirm whether the presenter had now been taken off the air as a result of the claims.
The mother of the intended recipient told The Sun that her son used the large sums of money to help finance a spiraling crack and cocaine drug habit, saying that now, aged 20, he has gone from being a “happy young man to carefree” to a “ghost”. as a crack addict” in just three years.
“When I see [the presenter] on TV, I feel sick,” she said. “I blame this BBC man for destroying my son’s life. Taking my son’s innocence and handing over the money for crack that could kill my son.”
His son showed him an online bank statement that had numerous deposits from the presenter, he claimed, adding: “Once, he had sent £5,000 in one go. The money had been in exchange for sexually explicit photographs of my son.”
A BBC spokesperson said it treated any allegations “very seriously” and insisted it had processes in place to deal with them proactively.
The spokesperson added: “As part of that, if we receive information that requires further investigation or examination, we will take steps to do so. That includes actively trying to speak with those who have contacted us to seek more details and understanding of the situation.
“If we don’t get a response to our attempts or no further contact, that may limit our ability to progress, but that doesn’t mean our inquiries will stop. If, at any time, new information comes to light or is provided, including through newspapers, it will be acted upon, in accordance with internal processes.”