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Parliament could launch TV industry inquiry after Russell Brand sexual assault claims, MP warns

Four women have made allegations about Russell Brand  (PA Wire)
Four women have made allegations about Russell Brand (PA Wire)

A Parliamentary inquiry could be launched into the culture of "open secrets" in the TV industry after multiple women accused Russell Brand of sexual assault, a senior MP warned on Monday.

Caroline Dineage, chair of the Commons Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, said senior executives could be invited to give evidence in front of Parliament and alleged victims may be able to come straight to MPs to outline their experiences.

Four women have come forward to accuse Brand of sexual assaults, including rape, while he was working for Channel 4 and the BBC. The comedian denies any wrongdoing.

But it is the latest in a string of British TV scandals and claims that entertainment industry figures abused positions of power.

Earlier this year BBC newsreader Huw Edwards was suspended by the broadcaster following claims that he had paid a young person more than £35,000 for sexually explicit images.

Phillip Schofield stepped down from This Morning in May after admitting to lying about having an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a much younger male colleague.

Ms Dineage told Times Radio: "This is just the latest in what seemed to be a stream of these reports about culture in our TV industry.

"Reports about situations where things were an open secret, things where people turned a blind eye, all these kind of phrases that we hear. And I just don't think it's good enough. So it's not beyond the realms of possibility that the committee that I'm chair of may decide that we're going to do a full on inquiry into this kind of behaviour at the heart of television."

She added: "There are these giants of broadcasting, these giants of our media who just seem to wield an incredible amount of power and influence. In the wrong hands, that influence and power can be used to disproportionately affect the lives and careers of other people."

MPs are set to write to TV companies and ask them to set out the process for the inquiries that they are making.

Ms Dineage said: "There may be an opportunity later down the line for us to investigate this in which case people will be welcome to send us their own experiences because...I'm really keen to know to what extent that is the case and to what extent the media companies are doing something about it."

It follows claims by the four women of crimes allegedly carried out by Brand between 2006 and 2013 when he was working for the BBC and Channel 4 and starring in Hollywood films.

The allegations made against Brand in an joint investigation by The Times, Sunday Times and Dispatchers, include a claim by one woman that she was sexually assaulted during a three-month relationship with the comic when she was 16 and still at school.

She described his behaviour as “grooming”.

The BBC said that it was “urgently looking into the issues raised” while Brand hosted a radio show between 2006 and 2008.

Channel 4 announced that it was conducting “its own internal investigation”.

A spokesman added: "Channel 4 is appalled to learn of these deeply troubling allegations including behaviour alleged to have taken place on programmes made for Channel 4 between 2004 and 2007.

“We are determined to understand the full nature of what went on. We have carried out extensive document searches and have found no evidence to suggest the alleged incidents were brought to the attention of Channel 4. We will continue to review this in light of any further information we receive, including the accounts of those affected individuals.”

This follows claims that Brand pursued audience members for sex while presenting Big Brother spin-off shows EFourum and Big Brother’s Big Mouth.

A researcher claimed concerns about Brand’s behaviour were reported to production managers at Endemol, the company commissioned by Channel 4 to produce the programmes in 2004 and 2005, but were dismissed. Banijay UK, which bought Endemol in 2020, later announced that it had launched an “urgent internal investigation” and encouraged “anybody who feels that they were affected by Brand’s behaviour” to come forward.

Caroline Nokes, the chair of the Commons’ women and equalities select committee, said that a criminal inquiry was needed.

“These allegations are incredibly shocking and criminal,” she told the BBC.

“I would very much hope that complaints will be made both to the Metropolitan Police and indeed in the States, because this merits and needs a criminal investigation."