The BBC said Sunday it had contacted the authorities and suspended a presenter following allegations that he had paid a teenager tens of thousands of pounds for sexually explicit photos.
UK culture minister Lucy Frazer said earlier she had spoken about the “deeply concerning” allegations with BBC Director General Tim Davie, who assured her the BBC is “investigating swiftly and sensitively”.
The Sun newspaper, which first reported the claims, cited the young person’s mother as saying that an unnamed BBC presenter paid her child more than £35,000 ($45,000) for the images over a three-year period.
It is also claimed that the presenter in question appeared on air for a month after the family of the young person — who was said to be 17 when the payments started — complained to the BBC in May.
In a statement on Sunday, the BBC confirmed that it “first became aware of a complaint in May”.
“New allegations were put to us on Thursday of a different nature and in addition to our own enquiries we have also been in touch with external authorities, in line with our protocols,” it added.
The statement said that “a male member of staff has been suspended”.
“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,” the BBC added.
London’s Metropolitan Police released a statement later on Sunday confirming the BBC contacted it over the matter, “but no formal referral or allegation has been made”.
“We will require additional information before determining what further action should follow,” it added.
– ‘One scandal to another –
The BBC said it takes “any allegations seriously” and has “robust internal processes in place to proactively deal with such allegations”.
In an internal email sent to staff and quoted on the BBC website, Davie said he is “wholly condemning the unsubstantiated rumours being made on the internet about some of our presenting talent”.
Since The Sun published the allegations, some BBC presenters have taken to social media to deny that they are the broadcaster in question.
The British broadcaster, whose chairman resigned in April after an inquiry found he failed to disclose a loan to ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, has come under fire over its handling of the claim.
Former home secretary and an MP from the ruling Conservative party, Priti Patel, has said the BBC’s response was “derisory”, adding: “They must provide the victim and his family a full and transparent investigation”.
“The BBC, but also other broadcasters, do need to get a grip because we seem to lurch from one scandal to another and more needs to be done,” opposition Labour party lawmaker Rachel Reeves told Sky News on Sunday.
In May, British star TV host Phillip Schofield resigned from the ITV channel after admitting to an “unwise but not illegal” relationship with a younger colleague.