BBC Director General Tony Hall has admitted that the broadcaster was guilty of “overdoing it” when it covered a police raid on the home of Sir Cliff Richard.
Appearing before the digital, culture, media and sport committee, Lord Hall also revealed that the case had so far cost the BBC more than £1.5m in costs and damages, although most of it would be covered by an insurance policy he said.
Richard sued the BBC for breach of privacy following coverage of a raid on his home by South Yorkshire Police, who were investigating a historical sexual assault allegation against the singer.
Richard had always denied any wrongdoing, was not arrested and was not charged with any offence.
MPs heard that the BBC has so far paid £143,500 in damages and £850,000 in costs to Richard, as well as £515,000 in costs to South Yorkshire police.
“I think the helicopter was overdoing it,” Hall said. “It was something to report but down the bulletin.”
The BBC decided not to appeal after losing the case and Hall added: “I felt the case itself was not one I was happy to go to appeal on because of the way I thought we overdid it, to be blunt with you.
Hall revealed he had approached Richard to suggest they sat down and tried to “sort this out without going to court” but “sadly, but I guess understandably, the legal view came back which was: ‘We don’t want to talk. We are prepared to settle if you say you’ve acted illegally.’ But I don’t think we acted illegally.”