Defamation and privacy considerations are preventing media outlets from revealing the name of a BBC celebrity at the core of sex photo claims, according to media law experts.
Following allegations that he paid more than £35,000 to a youngster for sexually explicit images, a renowned male presenter has been suspended from the corporation.
The individual’s mother, now 20, said in the newspaper that the arrangement began when the kid was 17 years old and that the payments fueled a crack cocaine addiction.
No media outlet has named the presenter at the heart of the claims, but social media has been awash with speculation over the weekend.
Media partner at Glaisyers Solicitors, Steve Kuncewicz, said defamation and privacy concerns are the main reasons the presenter is not currently being publicly identified.
He said there was a high defamation risk involved in this story, but many details of the allegations weren’t known.
He said: “This case really is marked out by what we don’t know at the moment, we don’t know if there’s a criminal offence involved. If there’s a suggestion this person is involved in a criminal offence, that is about the most serious libel you can accuse somebody of.”
The BBC is meeting with the Met Police today. In a statement released on Sunday evening, the force said they had “received initial contact with the BBC in relation to this matter, but no formal referral or allegation has been made”.
Breaching rights to privacy is also a central concern. A landmark ruling at the Supreme Court in 2022, Bloomberg v ZXC, means someone is entitled to privacy if they are under a criminal investigation but have not yet been formally charged and sent to the courts, Mr Kuncewicz said.
He added: “There is al]ways an argument of public interest, there is always an argument that the freedom of expression of the press may outweigh the privacy rights of the individual, but because we have this case that deals with criminal investigations in particular, or the potential of criminal investigation, that’s why I think the press is being much more cautious than they have previously.”
Mark Stephens, media law expert and partner at Howard Kennedy, said there was “a second layer of privacy” at issue here, the “contractual arrangement” between the BBC and its members of staff.
“If there are allegations of inappropriate behaviour, or any other kind of breach of employment practice, they should be investigated confidentially,” he said.
“That’s doesn’t matter whether you’re a celebrity or in the local office or on the building site, the same law applies.
Following the weekend allegations, some celebrities felt compelled to publicly clarify on social media that they are not the presenter in question.
Uninformed conjecture, according to Mr Kuncewicz, can be perilous for the subjects as well as any individuals or entities guessing about the presenter.
“Even if there isn’t a criminal investigation, the fact that [someone] has been acting inappropriately with a teenager is the kind of thing that can ruin a career.” It’s serious business.”
Nonetheless, he stated that now that the tale is public, it is feasible that suspicion about the identity may rise to the point where the person’s name will be revealed by a media outlet.