BBC Boss Says Russell Brand Allegations Show That Industry Needs to Be “Utterly Vigilant” Against Abuses of Power

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BBC director general Tim Davie has spoken publicly for the first time about the recent allegations against Russell Brand, who was a major figure at the network for several years.

On the first day of the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention, where Brand was — unsurprisingly — a regular topic of discussion onstage, in Davies’ first question as part of his U.K. keynote he was asked what the accusations meant for the BBC.

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Over the weekend, the comedian, actor and TV host was the subject of a joint investigation by The TimesThe Sunday Times and Channel 4 Dispatches in which four women accused him of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse between 2006 and 2013, all of which he has vehemently denied.

“I think we just can’t be complacent. And this is not an issue that can be just put down as wholly historic,” said Davie, who was previously the BBC’s director of audio when Brand, in 2008, resigned following a controversy on his BBC Radio 2 show described as a serious editorial breach. “I think this is an important and healthy dialogue to have around the deep imbalances of power… I think there’s a deep responsibility for the leaders now and we’ve been at it for a while here.”

Davie said that he was “proud of the progress” at the BBC, which he claimed involved setting clear processes so there was “very, very vigorous support” and a “flawless” whistleblowing process.

“There have been deep problems with misogyny, abuse of power… and we just have to be utterly vigilant, be unaccepting of it, and create a culture of which where there’s a trust, that bringing information forward is treated very seriously,” he said, adding that he thought the BBC’s record in recent years — which have seen a number scandals erupt involving high-profile employees — showed there was “never a sense that we want to cover anything up.”

Davie, who following the allegations against Brand announced that the BBC would be launching an internal review into his time at the corporation, also said that he hadn’t ruled out an external review into the matter.

Earlier in the day at the convention, YouTube vp EMEA Pedro Pina was asked about YouTube’s decision to stop Brand from receiving advertising money off his popular YouTube channel, saying that it prevented him from “making a living” off the platform.

Unlike the BBC and Channel 4, which have both removed elements of Russell Brand’s content from their streaming services, Pina said YouTube would only delete “harmful” content as per its guidelines, adding that “right now, from what we know, we don’t have harmful content by Russell Brand.” However, he did admit that they had removed one of Brand’s videos in the past, a video that was accused of spreading COVID misinformation.

“But if we find out over the next days, hours, weeks, that there’s more reason to take more action, we will certainly do that.”

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