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Nicky Campbell launches legal action after being linked to BBC presenter scandal on social media

The media is not releasing the name of the suspended BBC employee at this stage due to legal concerns over breach of privacy and defamation

Nicky Campbell says he has launched legal action after he was wrongly named as the BBC presenter accused of paying a teenager for sexually explicit pictures.

The broadcaster, 62, was among a string of BBC stars who felt forced to clear their name amid speculation about the identity of the unnamed male presenter who allegedly paid a 17-year-old £35,000 for explicit photographs.

Introducing his BBC Radio 5 Live show on Monday, Campbell said: “Obviously thoughts with the alleged victim and family.

“So a bit of perspective here, worse things happen at sea as they say, but it was a distressing weekend, I can’t deny it, for me and others falsely named.

“Today I am having further conversations with the police in terms of malicious communication and with lawyers in terms of defamation.”

A general view of BBC Broadcasting House in London, as a male member of staff has been suspended following allegations an unnamed BBC presenter paid a teenager for sexually explicit images, the broadcaster said. The corporation said it was made aware of a complaint in May but that new allegations of a "different nature" were brought to it on Thursday. Picture date: Sunday July 9, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story MEDIA BBC. Photo credit should read: James Manning/PA Wire
A male member of staff has been suspended following allegations an unnamed BBC presenter paid a teenager for sexually explicit images (Photo: James Manning/PA Wire)

It comes after he suggested he had contacted police about being falsely mentioned online in connection with the story.

He tweeted a screenshot which featured the Metropolitan Police logo and the words: “Thank you for contacting the Metropolitan Police Service to report your crime.”

“I think it’s important to take a stand. There’s just too many of these people on social media. Thanks for your support friends,” he wrote.

On his BBC radio show, a caller rang to say she was “so angry and cross” that Campbell and others had to come forward and clear their names.

Campbell responded: “I’m all good, Jeremy (Vine) and also others involved as well, Rylan (Clark) and also Gary (Lineker), yeah it’s uncomfortable but as I said earlier worse things happen at sea.

“We’re big boys.”

Gary Lineker, Rylan Clark and Jeremy Vine stated they are not the presenter in question, with Lineker tweeting: “Hate to disappoint the haters but it’s not me.”

Clark wrote: “Not sure why my name’s floating about but re that story in the Sun – that ain’t me babe. I’m currently filming a show in Italy for the BBC, so take my name out ya mouths.”

Vine also said: “Just to say I’m very much looking forward to hosting my radio show on Monday – whoever the ‘BBC Presenter’ in the news is, I have the same message for you as Rylan did earlier: it certainly ain’t me.”

Meanwhile, Jon Kay explained his absence from the BBC Breakfast sofa tweeting: “Enjoying some extra sleep and long-planned annual leave with the family, so no need to set my alarm clock tomorrow morning.

“Back on the red sofa with my BBC Breakfast family in Salford in two weeks’ time.”

Since news broke that a household name was at the centre of claims he paid more than £35,000 in exchange for sexual images, questions have been asked why name of the BBC star has not been published.

The media’s caution is partly due to a change in the law established when Sir Cliff Richard won a privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.

Sir Cliff was falsely accused of historical sex offences. He denied the allegations and was never arrested and in June 2016 prosecutors announced he would face no charges.

Mark Stephens, media law expert and partner at Howard Kennedy, said: “Back in July 2018, the law changed in the Cliff Richard case and what was decided was that while an investigation was going on, the balance between right to privacy and freedom of expression or the public’s right to know, favoured keeping things private.

“That is why the Sun and no other newspaper has identified the presenter, and part of that was to avoid this social media frenzy with names being bandied about.

“So essentially, the judge, Mr Justice Mann, said in the (Cliff Richard) case that the coverage and social media was breathless and sensationalist and what he decided was until the investigatory phase was over, there shouldn’t be any naming of the individual.

“That was quite a controversial change but it was a pretty significant change and that’s impacted here, and that sort of sits over everything, whether it’s a civil complaint or a criminal one.”

Mr Stephens said there is a second layer of privacy, which is 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.

Media outlets will also be wary of defamation when deciding whether to identify the star at the centre of the scandal.

Revealing the individual’s identity would cause serious harm to their reputation, allowing them to sue the publication under defamation law.

To defend itself in trial, the publication would have to prove that the allegations are true.

Alternatively, they could argue that it was in the public interest to report the allegations, but they would need to demonstrate that they made every effort to verify the claims and show that they reasonably believed what they were doing was in the public interest.

The Metropolitan Police has been contacted for comment.

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