BBC chief Tim Davie on Tuesday faced a media grilling after claims that a top presenter paid a teenager thousands of pounds for sexually explicit images.
The accusations fuelled a fifth straight day of frontpage headlines with broadcast media, including the publicly-funded BBC, also leading its own radio and television news bulletins with the story.
The allegations first emerged in an article published Friday in The Sun tabloid in which the alleged victim’s family said the presenter had paid a total of £35,000 ($45,000) for the pictures.
The Sun, which leans towards the ruling Conservative party, said the exchanges between the presenter and the young person started three years ago when the teenager was 17.
The damaging headlines come after the broadcaster was rocked in recent years by scandals which saw some of their biggest names revealed as serial sex offenders.
Davie, the corporation’s director general, was due to brief the media on the BBC’s annual report but will inevitably face questions about the furore.
On Tuesday, The Sun doubled down on its story after a lawyer acting for the young person involved rubbished the claims.
In a letter to the BBC, the lawyer said “nothing inappropriate or unlawful has taken place between our client and the BBC personality”.
The mother of the youngster, who is now 20, however, told The Sun she had spoken out to help her child who she says used the money from the presenter to fuel a crack cocaine addiction.
The BBC said on Sunday it had suspended the unnamed presenter.
London’s Metropolitan Police said detectives from its Specialist Crime Command met representatives from the BBC virtually on Monday morning.
“They are assessing the information discussed at the meeting and further enquiries are taking place to establish whether there is evidence of a criminal offence being committed,” it said.
“There is no investigation at this time,” a statement added.
Britain has strict privacy and defamation laws, which has made the media increasingly wary about revealing a person’s identity before they are formally under investigation or arrest.
In 2018, the BBC itself was forced to pay substantial damages for breach of privacy to the singer Cliff Richard after it broadcast live footage of a 2014 police raid on his home.
But there has been a swirl of speculation about the presenter’s identity on social media.
The scandal comes against a background of attacks on the BBC by members of the ruling Conservatives since the divisive Brexit referendum in 2016.
The critics have accused it of pro-EU bias, with others in the UK’s predominantly Tory-supporting right-wing press accusing it of having a “woke” agenda.