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12 Jul, 2023 15:13

Sexting allegations against British state media anchor ‘shocking’ – UK PM

An unnamed employee is accused of paying a teenager for sexually explicit images
Sexting allegations against British state media anchor ‘shocking’ – UK PM

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said allegations that a prominent BBC presenter paid a teenager for sexually explicit images are “shocking and concerning.” Speaking to reporters in Lithuania on Tuesday, Sunak revealed his government had been assured by the broadcaster that the issue would be investigated promptly.

“They were shocking, concerning allegations, of course they were,” Sunak told the media ahead of his arrival for the opening day of the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius. The premier added that he does not know the identity of the male presenter, whose name has been withheld by UK outlets due to privacy concerns.

Sunak said his culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, had discussed the matter with the BBC’s director general on Sunday, and that she had been “reassured that the process they are undertaking is rigorous and will be swift.” However, the BBC announced on Tuesday that it had paused its investigation while the Metropolitan Police conducts its own probe.

The BBC suspended the presenter on Sunday after UK tabloid The Sun published claims that he had spent around £35,000 ($45,000) on sexually explicit images from a young person, who was reported to have subsequently spent the sum on illegal narcotics. The newspaper anonymously quoted the mother of the alleged victim, who is now 20.

Their interactions allegedly began when the person was just 17, leading to the possibility of the presenter being charged with commissioning child sexual abuse images – a serious criminal offense under UK law.

However, a statement released on Monday by a lawyer representing the young person challenged the version of events that appeared in The Sun. “Nothing inappropriate or unlawful has taken place between our client and the BBC personality,” the statement said.

On Tuesday evening, fresh allegations were reported by BBC News which detailed that another young person – who has no connection to the person in the sexual images investigation – had been contacted by the presenter on a dating app. They claimed they had felt threatened by messages sent by the presenter, which BBC News verified, after refusing invitations to meet up in person.

The claims are the latest allegations of sexual impropriety at the UK’s national broadcaster. Former radio presenter Tim Westwood is currently under investigation for alleged sexual assault. The BBC was also at the center of a scandal after numerous incidents of sexual assault by former broadcaster Jimmy Savile were uncovered shortly after his death in 2011.