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BBC presenter charged with indecent assaults

LONDON (Reuters) - A veteran BBC TV and radio presenter was charged with three counts of indecent assault by British police on Wednesday, the latest high-profile figure to be questioned since a sex scandal erupted at Britain's publicly funded broadcaster.

The charges will be a further embarrassment for the BBC, which was thrown into turmoil when it was revealed in October that one of its former top stars, the late Jimmy Savile, had been one of Britain's most prolific child sex offenders.

Stuart Hall, 82, best known for hosting the popular TV program "It's a Knockout" in the 1970s and 80s and who still appears on radio, was not charged with rape, police said.

"The offences are alleged to have been committed between 1974 and 1984 and to involve three girls aged between 9 and 16 years," police said in a statement.

Hall has been released on bail and will appear before magistrates on January 7, police said.

"There is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction," John Dilworth of the Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement.

The presenter still regularly appears on BBC airwaves, delivering erudite and grandiose soccer reports for which he is well-known to sports fans.

His agent declined to go into detail about the arrest and referred queries to the BBC.

"In light of the very serious nature of these charges Stuart Hall will not be working at the BBC while the police continue with their inquiries," a spokesman for the broadcaster said in a statement.

After revelations about Savile emerged in October, police launched an investigation into the presenter and potential accomplices. They have so far quizzed five people including the former glam rock singer Gary Glitter and comedian Freddie Starr, who both deny any wrongdoing.

Hall's arrest is not part of that investigation, but revelations about Savile have prompted a flurry of allegations to police around the country.

The BBC's much-criticized response to the Savile disclosures and suggestions it had covered up allegations against the late BBC presenter led to the resignation of its director general George Entwistle last month.

(Reporting by Michael Holden and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Pravin Char)

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