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BBC journalists “acted appropriately” on Cliff Richard coverage, says Director General

By | Published on Friday 22 August 2014


Journalists at the BBC “acted appropriately” when reporting on a police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Cliff Richard, the broadcaster’s Director General Tony Hall has said. This follows a complaint from South Yorkshire Police last week.

In a letter to the chair of parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, Hall said: “I believe that BBC journalists have acted appropriately in pursuing this story. As you rightly say, the media has a right to report on matters of public interest. Sir Cliff Richard is one of the most successful British entertainers of all time and has been a prominent public figure for several decades”.

He continued: “Investigations into historic sex abuse cases have – and will continue to have – a profound impact on the lives of well-known individuals and the standing of public institutions. The disclosure of a sex abuse allegation against Sir Cliff Richard and the police search of his property was clearly a significant story and the BBC was not alone in providing extensive coverage”.

As previously reported, Richard’s Berkshire home was searched by police last week, in relation to allegations of the sexual assault of a boy under the age of sixteen at a Christian faith rally in 1985. The singer has denied the claims, saying that they are “completely false”, and adding that he will “co-operate fully” with the police investigation.

South Yorkshire Police then complained to the BBC over its conduct in reporting the case. It said that the BBC had contacted the police force about the case some weeks prior to the search of Richards’ home. At this point, the police said in a statement, “it was agreed that the reporter would be notified of the date of the house search in return for delaying publication of any of the facts”.

Some media reports after the search suggested that the police had leaked information to the BBC “in order to maximise publicity”. The police complaint came later last week as South Yorkshire Police believed that “the BBC was slow to acknowledge that the force was not the source of the leak”.

Since the search of his property and his denying of the allegations against him, the singer has cancelled a number of planned public appearances. Earlier this week he pulled out of an upcoming performance at a Canterbury Cathedral charity event. He has also cancelled an appearance at an event in the Portuguese city of Albufeira, where he lives, and where he was at the time of last week’s search. The singer was due to receive the keys to the city on Wednesday next week.

In the wake of the allegations coming to light, fans of Richard have started a campaign to show their support by attempting to get his 1992 single, ‘I Still Believe In You’, in to the charts. The track went to number seven when it was originally released. In the midweek charts, the Official Charts Company reports, the song was still 500 sales off making the Top 40.