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Why The Sun should finally name the BBC scandal presenter

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By Gordon Young | Editor-in-Chief

July 12, 2023 | 7 min read

Gordon Young, editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Drum, has, like many, been following the BBC presenter scandal, all week. He believes it's finally time for The Sun to play its hand and name the person.

Crisis comms

Once again social media is on fire speculating about nefarious crimes and cover-ups at a UK broadcaster. The media is being whipped into a frenzy and the BBC has again gone from being a national institution to the nation's favorite punch-bag.

Who is the BBC presenter at the centre of a sex pics scandal, a story broken by The Sun? The issue is now deemed to be the biggest story in the UK, if you were to track the front pages and lead stories of even the country’s broadsheets and pre-eminent broadcasters.

Like the screenplay of Don’t Look Up, I imagine this would even push harder news, like a detonation of a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, or the invasion of Taiwan, off the front pages. The world has truly gone mad. And this is why I hate myself for first taking time out to find out who the presenter is (thanks Twitter) and now, God help me, writing about the issue.

Well, we closely follow the marketing and media industries so I suppose we have more of an excuse than most. Three main questions dominate the issue: Why hasn’t the presenter been named?

I see two reasons - first of all evolving privacy law.

At the moment it is not clear that the individual concerned has broken any laws, or done anything wrong, even if people might deem his actions distasteful. Therefore, there might be no public interest defence for the media if they identify him. Anyone exposing him is vulnerable to a litany of legal action.

And secondly, trusty old libel laws - if the story is factually incorrect, or even if parts of it are incorrect, again, this could result in expensive legal action.

So should the BBC break ranks and name him?

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I do not see how it could, without his consent at least. It is not only bound by privacy and defamation laws but also by contracts and additional layers of privacy protection. It is a highly unusual situation, and to me any criticism of its comms is unfair. This is an unwinnable battle for it in terms of classic PR, a strategy of at least keeping the corporation out of the courts seems rational. It says it has suspended the individual, and eagle-eyed viewers may spot who is missing from normal programming. But that's standard procedure during an investigation.

What might change?

The calculus might change if solid evidence emerges of criminal conduct. This might explain why The Sun is pursuing the story of a potential lock-down breach with such gusto, made by yet another accuser. A criminal aspect might give it cover to reveal the presenter's identity in relation to privacy law at least. Together with the original allegation of soliciting images from a person under 18, this lockdown angle might at least give it a belt if not the braces. But it is murky. But despite maximum pressure being exerted on the BBC to name names, the onus should really be on The Sun to tell us who it is talking about.

It must be the first big exposé not to actually expose the person at the center of the story.

The Sun has made clear it stands by the story, and claims to have robust evidence - even though the alleged first victim has described the allegation as ‘rubbish’ via his lawyers. The plot thickens, playing out in real-time mostly on social media.

But if The Sun is so sure of its case - it should name him. At the moment the title seems to be exerting maximum power without taking responsibility. It needs to follow the advice of the Duke of Wellington - publish and be damned.

And if it does get dragged into court at least it may publicise the increasing scope of new privacy legislation - now that is an issue that deserves more public scrutiny.

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