Sir Cliff vs the BBC

Sir Cliff Richard

Cliff’s Four Year Ordeal

On Wednesday July 18th, Britain’s best known pop / rock star, Sir Cliff Richard, won his privacy battle against the BBC in the High Court.

It was the public and unprovoked nature of the raid – not the necessity of investigating allegations – to which Sir Cliff objected.

The background to the case is this; in common with some other celebrities, who were well-known in the 1960s and 70s, Cliff was investigated, because of allegations of historic sex abuse. However, Cliff Richard’s case was handled differently. South Yorkshire Police raided his home in August 2014, having previously arranged with the BBC that they would have cameras present. The raid was televised live, without any prior warning to the singer, who was absent from the country, staying at his vacation retreat in Portugal. It was the public and unprovoked nature of the raid – not the necessity of investigating allegations – to which Sir Cliff objected.

In June 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped the case, saying that there was no case to answer. It turned out that the original allegations had been made by known and proven liars. Sir Cliff had never been arrested, and no charges had ever been leveled against him. South Yorkshire Police immediately admitted that they had made a terrible blunder. They apologized to the star, and, eventually, reached an out of court settlement for £400,000 (perhaps, about $650,000).

The BBC, however, refused to apologize, claiming that their report was “in the public interest”. It was on those grounds that Sir Cliff Richard decided to sue them.

There is, of course, more to Sir Cliff Richard than the fact that he is the world’s most prolific pop star, having achieved number one records in five successive decades. He is also, arguably, Britain’s best-known Christian.

The harassment of Sir Cliff by the BBC is part and parcel of the corporation’s long-standing opposition to anything that smacks of faith.

Now, I have had cause before to comment on Sir Cliff’s unorthodox ans problematic theological positions. I am not, therefore, holding him up as an example of evangelical theology. His comments on the existence of hell (he seems to doubt it), his lack of pastoral oversight (he seems not to belong to a church), and his ambivalent, vague comments on same-sex marriage, are all issues that put Sir Cliff outside of orthodox evangelicalism, and cast doubt on aspects of his confession of faith. But these points are not at issue here. What is perfectly clear is that the public in general, and the BBC in particular, view Sir Cliff as a Christian. Therefore, the harassment of Sir Cliff by the BBC is part and parcel of the corporation’s long-standing opposition to anything that smacks of faith. The BBC, once again, and in spectacular fashion, show themselves to be institutionally anti-Christian in all their workings.

Some media outlets have now suggested that Sir Cliff’s court victory puts journalism in jeopardy. This is nonsense. Reporting the evidence of Jimmy Saville’s dreadful deeds, as the UK’s most prolific serial paedophile, would not have been affected by this ruling. Nor would the contemporaneous reporting of the arrests and trials and guilty verdicts for celebrities such as Stuart Hall or Rolf Harris. The issue in Sir Cliff’s case is that there was no substance whatsover to the allegations. Not only that, but the CPS, once the case had come to them, recognized that there was not even a case to answer. Not every old celebrity is a sex offender. Sir Cliff, of all people, whatever you say about the paucity of his theology, has surely built a reputation for the exact opposite; a reputation for clean living, and conservative values.

Even that supposed organ of British conservatism, the Daily Telegraph, has expressed some solidarity with BBC journalists – though the comments at the bottom of the webpage on that Opinion Article, overwhelmingly take the Telegraph to task. The Telegraph are wrong. But, much more importantly, the BBC are wrong.

Friends of mine in the US are (rightly) appalled when I explain the unusual way in which the BBC is funded. Expensive public license fees have funded the BBC’s legal case, in this shameful episode, costing license-payers over a million pounds.

Expensive public license fees have funded the BBC’s legal case, in this shameful episode, costing license-payers over a million pounds.

I have made no secret of my opinions on this. I dislike the BBC intensely. It is anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, left-wing, and incredibly biased. Yes, it sometimes makes excellent TV shows – but the best of their TV shows would still be made, and probably even better, if they were funded by voluntary subscription, or by paid advertisement. It is time for the poll-tax, known as the TV License, to be abolished. And it is time that the BBC management were made to grovel, and compelled to apologize to Sir Cliff – even though we know their apology would be without sincerity. The BBC were already a disgrace, before this ever happened. It is time that their management learned the full force of the British people’s contempt, that they acted as judge, jury, and executioner, against an innocent man. Yes, every organization can make a mistake. South Yorkshire Police made a mistake – but at least they admitted it. If the BBC continue to refuse to admit their error, their top management should be made to pay the price personally, if we could get them to reimburse the public financing of their legal team, out of their own private purses.

Sir Cliff interviewed on ITV News

Sir Cliff Performs his very first hit, Move It

 

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