Three Girls told the harrowing story of the children who were groomed, sexually abused and trafficked by British Pakistani men in Rochdale.
Writer Nicole Taylor dedicated the prize to health worker Sara Rowbotham and former detective Maggie Oliver, who helped blow the whistle on the issue, as well as the real three girls and their families.
She said: “If people came to this programme it’s because of you, you stood up in court, you went to the police.” She added: “To all the Maggies and Saras who lost your careers and nearly lost your minds trying to get your voices heard, thank you, this is for you.”
The ceremony is taking place at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
Host Sue Perkins opened the show by joking about the gender pay gap as she delivered an opening monologue that focused on the Time’s Up movement for gender equality.
She said: “I don’t want to ignore the elephant in the room but it would be crass and inappropriate to discuss my fee, so let’s just say I’m going to be putting in half the effort.”
She also referred to the large Bafta masks that flanked her on the stage, saying: “I’ve still got two big fellas there to make sure my driving is alright.”
The comedian hailed the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor Who, saying: “I think Jodie is the perfect choice... if anyone has experience fighting off grotesque monsters, it’s an actress.”
Peaky Blinders was the winner of the drama series category, while Murder In Successville won the Bafta for comedy entertainment programme.
Brian F. O’Byrne was been named the winner of the supporting actor category for his role in Little Boy Blue.
He dedicated the award in memory of the late Rhys Jones, whose father Steve he played in the ITV series, and also thanked the city of Liverpool for embracing the story.
The supporting actress prize went to Vanessa Kirby for her role as Princess Margaret in The Crown.
She said: “I just felt like the luckiest person in the world to get to play a character who was so colourful, vivid, brave and strong.
“This is for Margaret, wherever she is.”
She also paid tribute to co-star Claire Foy, calling her “the best sister ever”, before adding “apart from my real one!”