BBC to Face Inquiry Over U.K. Celebrity Police Raid Coverage
The BBC has found itself in hot water over its recent coverage of a police raid on the home of U.K. singer Cliff Richard.
An investigation into an alleged historic sexual assault was captured by a news helicopter, already hovering over the address, and aired lived last Thursday by the broadcaster, which has since been accused of being tipped off about the timing of the raid and leading a police witch-hunt against the 72-year-old personality.
The coverage was likened to the excesses of tabloid culture in the U.K. media and described by former BBC presenter Michael Parkinson as something that “would have done the red tops credit,” referring to The Sun and The Mirror newspapers.
Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said that the raid’s leak suggested that Richard – who has not been charged and remains on holiday out of the U.K. – was being treated “like a bank robber or mass murderer”.
The BBC director-general Tony Hall and the chief constable of the police force who ordered the raid are now to be summoned before parliament to explain how the broadcaster knew in advance that Richard’s home was to be searched.
The BBC has denied that information had been leaked to it by the police. Jonathan Munro, its head of news gathering, said that there had been lost of queries regarding the original source. “We won’t say who, but can confirm it was not South Yorks Police,” he tweeted Friday.
The police has accused the broadcaster breached its own editorial guidelines after Richard only found out about the raid on his home from television.
In an article published in The Guardian Monday, insiders claimed that the coverage was part of a drive by senior management to obtain more exclusives, after BBC News lost out to ITV News and Channel 4 on recent headline stories.