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BBC Director General Tim Davie has declined to rule out an external inquiry into the Russell Brand allegations as he stresses the issues surrounding the situation are “not wholly historic.”
Pressed on the BBC’s internal review at the RTS Cambridge Convention and whether the BBC could look outside the corporation for help, he said: “I don’t rule out anything.”
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Davie unveiled the internal review led by Peter Johnston earlier this week following the allegations published by The Times and Channel 4, which range from rape to sexual assault and come from four women. The BBC has also removed content featuring Brand from its VoD player and yesterday Davie told staff he didn’t know how some of Brand’s older broadcasts were allowed to air.
The BBC has a number of reviews in place at the moment including into Tim Westwood and Huw Edwards and Davie said “my instinct is there are significant problems.”
“We have to be careful how we pre-judge these,” he added. “I’ve seen progress but we all have to be committed to change.”
Davie stressed the Brand allegations, which Brand vehemently denies, “can not just be put down as wholly historic.”
Brand worked for BBC radio between 2006 and 2008 before being fired after prank-calling Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter.
Davie, who oversaw that review in 2008 when he had just become head of radio, said it was a “rigorous piece of work” but “I always look back with hindsight and think could we have done more?”
Speaking prior to Davie, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said the allegations against Brand show that “terrible” treatment of women was tolerated in the British television industry.
Brand’s representatives have not responded to repeated requests for comment. Brand published a video across his social media channels in which he preemptively denied the “litany” of allegations about his criminal behavior. “The relationships that I had were absolutely always consensual,” he said. “I was always transparent about that then, almost too transparent. And I’m being transparent about it now.”
Turning to other issues, Davie admitted he is “healthily paranoid” about Netflix poaching the BBC’s top talent.
But, in what appeared a veiled dig at the streamers, he said “life isn’t only about cash, it’s about leaving a legacy.”
“We are in a bit of a second age here,” he added. “People are beginning to reflect on where this all leaves us and what the quality of the debate is. The BBC doesn’t need all of your time if it is habitually part of where you go and has trusted content.”
Davie added that “we’re clearly in a battle” and stressed that “relevance” remains the challenge.
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