BBC director-general Tony Hall has defended the Corporation’s coverage of the arrest of Cliff Richard – and has refused to apologise to the singer for the reporting.
Speaking at the launch of the BBC’s annual report today, Hall maintained that the coverage of a raid on the singer’s home in 2014 was legitimate – although he did apologise for the distress caused.
“We have said two things to Sir Cliff,” Hall remarked, “who is a fabulous entertainer and has done a great things for the BBC over many many years. We have said we are sorry for the distress he has been caused over the last couple of years. But we have also said that the Home Affairs Select Committee… reviewed our decisions and said we see nothing wrong in the BBC’s decision to run the story – and I think that’s right.
“If the police are investigating a matter of public interest and concern, we should report that. And it’s not just us, but our colleagues on other broadcasting media and newspapers as well.”
Asked again if he would apologise, Hall said: “I have said what I want to say.”
Hall today confirmed that the BBC has received a letter from Sir Cliff and would be responding in due course, amid reports that the singer is preparing to sue the police and the Corporation. Sir Cliff is understood to have instructed lawyers to make formal legal complaints to South Yorkshire Police and the BBC over their handling of the raid.
Police investigating historical sex allegations launched an investigation in 2014, which was filmed by the BBC.
The BBC’s helicopter and television cameras attended a police search of Sir Cliff Richard’s penthouse flat in Berkshire in August 2014. Later that year, the Home Affairs Select Committee found the BBC had acted “properly”.
Last year an independent investigation concluded that South Yorkshire Police should not have released “highly confidential” information to the BBC about the planned search.
The force apologised “wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused” to Sir Cliff by the force’s “initial handling of the media interest” in its investigation.
Sir Cliff, 75, was told last month that he would not face criminal proceedings.
In a statement posted on Facebook on Sunday, Sir Cliff said: “Whilst the police of course need to properly investigate allegations made to them, it is clear to me that questions need to be answered by both the police and the BBC about their initial handling of my matter, which has rightly been condemned from so many quarters, including the Home Affairs Select Committee, the broader press, and, even the police themselves.
“I chose not to comment during the active investigation for obvious reasons, but having suffered the experience that I have, I firmly believe that privacy should be respected and that police guidelines are there to be followed.
“That means that save in exceptional circumstances people should never be named unless and until they are charged. As everybody has accepted there were no such ‘exceptional circumstances’ in my case.”