Furious BBC stars demand action as they are falsely identified in presenter scandal

Nicky Campbell and Jeremy Vine among those threatening legal action against social media users

Security guards patrol outside BBC Broadcasting House in central London on July 9, 2023 (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)
The BBC are yet to name the presenter at the centre of the scandal, but he has since been suspended. (Getty Images)

A number of BBC stars have continued to share their anger and frustration after being falsely identified as the unnamed male presenter involved in a teen sex scandal.

The broadcaster has launched an investigation after a story in The Sun alleged that a well-known BBC presenter paid more than £35,000 to a young person they had been in contact with from the age of 17 for sexual pictures.

It is thought a complaint was made to the broadcaster in May, raising concerns over a seeming lack of urgency to deal with the matter.

Read the latest updates from the BBC story here with Yahoo's live coverage

As news of the scandal emerged, a number of big names at the BBC - including Jeremy Vine, Nicky Campbell and Rylan - took to social media to state that they are not the presenter in question after malicious posts linking them to the allegations.

On Monday BBC Radio 5 Live's Campbell took listeners to his show that the false allegations had left him "distressed". He added: "Today I'm having further communication with the police in terms of malicious communication and with lawyers in terms of defamation."

Vine added on his Radio 2 show: "It goes without saying that, for legal reasons, we won’t name the person. During the day it may change - you may find there are developments, but let’s see.”

“By virtue of talking into this microphone, I can’t believe I’m even having to say this, it can’t be me.”

'Important to take a stand'

It follows a difficult weekend for the stars, who said their names were dragged through the mud by online strangers.

Campbell shared screenshots showing one such accusation and evidence of a report filed with the Metropolitan Police.

Read more: Questions BBC must answer over presenter accused of paying for explicit photos

"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 tweeted.

Meanwhile the Independent was accused of "wilful clickbait" after sharing an article headlined "Rylan Clark responds to BBC presenter scandal", including a picture of Clark in the thumbnail.

The news outlet shared the piece on Facebook with a caption saying a "top presenter" has been taken off air for "paying a teen £35,000 for explicit pictures".

Read more: BBC presenter scandal is sleazy and depressing - but at the heart of this a family is suffering

Arguing that someone quickly glancing at the post would assume Clark was the guilty party, the presenter tweeted: "Hi @Independent would you mind editing or removing this Facebook post, it suggests I’m the person in question and frankly the comments are disgusting."

He later wrote: "I won’t sit back and have my name attached to something that has nothing to do with me. I responded originally because my name amongst others was trending on social media yesterday morning.

"I ask all media outlets to please be careful with their subtext when using my photo surrounding such serious stories. People don’t always read the full text. Thanks."

Read more: BBC urged to act ‘very swiftly’ on explicit photo claims about unnamed presenter

Responding to Rylan's post, political commentator Jonny Gould said "the vacuum created by not naming the BBC personality leads to defamation on social media", but said the Independent should be "ashamed" of its "wilful clickbait".

The Independent later edited the post, changing the headline to: "‘That ain’t me’: Rylan Clark and Jeremy Vine respond to BBC presenter scandal".

BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine was also among those to name and shame someone for making a baseless accusation.

Sharing the offending tweet, he wrote: "I do not know who Andy Plumb is, but a defamation lawyer advised me that what he did on Twitter yesterday is the quickest way to lose £20,000. I messaged Andy to that effect."

In a tweet aimed directly at Plumb, Vine said: "I've passed screenshots your messages about me to a lawyer. They are seriously defamatory. They are completely and utterly untrue."

Read more: Culture Secretary to speak to BBC boss over ‘deeply concerning’ allegations

Plumb later claimed he'd been drinking and that when he's drunk, he "like many others", sends "daft tweets, which are deleted the following morning", describing it as "perfectly normal behaviour".

Vine responded: "It's really not “perfectly normal behaviour,” Andy. You have a lot of followers who will have read and spread your damaging lies. I let loads of stuff go on here — but not this. I'll be in touch soon."

Also among the big names to respond to the scandal was Match of the Day's Gary Lineker, who tweeted: "Hate to disappoint the haters but it's not me."

Other presenters have been named on social media, but they do not appear to have spoken out or threatened legal action.

Read more: Syria revokes BBC's media accreditation and accuses the British broadcaster of spreading 'fake news'

The scandal has prompted warnings from legal experts for people to think twice about making baseless accusations online.

Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal tweeted: "Bit of legal advice... If you name someone and get it wrong then they may sue you for defamation and you can say goodbye to everything you own. So don't."

The BBC’s Director-General Tim Davie said he is “wholly condemning the unsubstantiated rumours being made on the internet about some of our presenting talent”.

In a note sent to staff, he said the corporation takes “all such allegations incredibly seriously”.

Mr Davie added: “The BBC became aware of a complaint in May; the BBC investigations team have been looking into this since it was raised and have been actively following up.

Watch: Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves calls BBC's response to teen sex candal 'concerning'

“New allegations, of a different nature, were put to us on Thursday, and in addition to our own enquiries we have also been in touch with external authorities, in line with our protocols. I can also confirm that we have suspended a member of staff.”

He added: “By law, individuals are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy, which is making this situation more complex.

"I also want to be very clear that I am wholly condemning the unsubstantiated rumours being made on the internet about some of our presenting talent.

“We are in contact with the family referenced in the media reports. I want to assure you that we are working rapidly to establish the facts and to ensure that these matters are handled fairly and with care, including by external authorities where appropriate.”