Huw Edwards scandal: BBC

BBC boss Tim Davie says the corporation has been in touch with the family of a person at the centre of allegations surrounding Huw Edwards.

Speaking at a pre-arranged Lords Communications Committee session on Tuesday, the director-general said: “We have been in touch with the complainant, we want to be engaged and appropriately listening and understanding their concern”.

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‘We have been in touch with the complainant,’ says BBC director-general

The BBC has faced accusations it did not respond quickly enough to complaints from the family of the young person, after it took seven weeks for allegations to be put to Huw Edwards.

Mr Davie was also asked about holding the BBC’s high-paid talent to account, responding: “I think the history of this industry is such that we should all be concerned and appropriately diligent around the abuse of people in powerful positions”.

He added: “You need to ensure that you’re very, very clear on what your expectations are culturally, as well as the policy.”

He went on to say he was “proud” of the corporation’s code of conduct and values, calling the whistleblowing process by which staff can confidentially report concerns to an external support at work line “a safe place”.

He also confirmed to peers that high-profile presenters at the corporation have a clause in their contract about not bringing the BBC into disrepute.

Edwards, who is the BBC’s highest-earning newsreader, was accused of paying a teenager thousands of pounds for sexually explicit photos.

‘Very wrong directions’

Acting chairwoman of the BBC Dame Elan Closs Stephens told peers despite “huge pressure” to name the presenter at the heart of the scandal, the corporation “had a duty to act with some calm and rationality in the face of lack of rationality and lack of calm”.

She said that duty of care was both to Edwards, the young person and the young person’s family involved “in this maelstrom”.

She went on: “I was on the one hand seeking to establish the right of the board to oversee what was happening, but at the same time, I was trying my best to make for a calm and rational discussion of the issue before we all got carried away in what could have been very wrong directions.”

The family of the young person had originally complained to the BBC in May, but allegations were not put to the presenter, or flagged to senior executives – including Mr Davie – until seven weeks later.

Appeal for information

Mr Davie, along with Dame Elan, faced questions about the “adequacy” of the corporation’s governance arrangements and were asked to give updates on the progress of two reports, following the controversy.

The BBC is carrying out “fact-finding investigations” into Edwards, as well as a review to “assess how some complaints are red flagged up the organisation”.

Elaborating on the BBC’s general complaints process, he said a serious allegation would be passed on to its corporate investigations team where it would be assessed by “very experienced people”, and that from there “it could lead to a fact-finding and disciplinary or it might go to the authorities, or it might be dropped”.

Read more:

Who is Huw Edwards?

Was The Sun right to publish allegations?


What friends and colleagues have said about Huw Edwards

BBC chiefs are finally talking – but still avoiding accountability

Katie Spencer

Katie Spencer

Arts and entertainment correspondent

@SkyKatieSpencer

Essential oils perhaps? A cooling flannel to the forehead?

If Dame Elan Closs Stephens, acting chairwoman of the BBC, has any suggestions on how we journalists chill out, calm down, get a grip – which she clearly thinks we need to do – then please do pass them on.

In truth, I think I may need some tips on stress relief. The rare occasions when bosses at the corporation speak publicly about the Huw Edwards affair are starting to become an exercise in raising one’s blood pressure.

Director-general Tim Davie and Dame Elan fielding questions in parliament, a classic example of how well-paid guardians of BBC yet again fail to see what the fuss is all about.

For clarity, accountability is an important pillar of the BBC. And yet top bosses seem to have an almost deluded approach to why we expect them to share what goes on behind the scenes.

Yes, finally, we have a few more answers about what’s now happening. Because of their duty of care to those involved, their fact-finding investigation could take weeks or months.

We now know that contractually high-profile presenters agree not to bring the corporation into disrepute.

That, finally, they’ve spoken with the original complainant and want to be “engaged and listening”. They’ve worked out how to make a phone call then?

Forgive the sarcasm, but when Dame Elan criticised the 40 journalists she spoke to on zoom for being so preoccupied by the scandal we failed to report on how well she and her team were handling events behind the scene, it somewhat took the biscuit.

Actually, I wasn’t rubbing my hands together with glee at reporting on the downfall of a well-respected news figure. More over I was contemplating bashing my head against a brick wall out of frustration over how impossible it is to get a straight answer out of the BBC.

For the record, Dame Elan, if you had “wished governance had been more to the fore but can’t dictate how it was reported…” all you had to do was come out and talk to us.

Don’t try to now sell the few brief words you gave to press at the start of a pre-arranged briefing on your annual report as you arranging a proper briefing on the matter, because it certainly wasn’t that.

You are tasked with protecting something precious. Journalists are tasked with making sure you’re doing your job. Accountability and openness is the least required of you.

When are reports due?

Addressing fact-finding probe into Edwards, Mr Davie highlighted the “difficult concerns” involved and appealed for anyone with information to get in touch, saying: “We’re keen to receive any information because we just want to understand anything that’s out there”.

Mr Davie said the report “could take weeks or it could take a couple of months, or even longer”.

With regard to the second review of the BBC’s protocols and procedures, Mr Davie said: “We are doing that work immediately,” adding that it would be delivered in “the autumn, maybe late autumn”.

It will be led by Simon Cuerden, a forensic partner at Deloitte and Sir Nick Serota, a senior independent director at the BBC.

Original allegations

Allegations that Edwards paid a teenager more than £35,000 for sexually explicit photos were first published in The Sun on Friday 7 July. The paper did not name him at the time.

Five days later, the Metropolitan Police said they did not believe any criminal activity had taken place and would be taking no further action.

Following intense speculation over the identity of the BBC presenter, Edwards’ wife, Vicky Flind, confirmed him as the man at the centre of the allegations.

In a statement, she said he was “suffering from serious mental health issues” and was “receiving in-patient hospital care”.

The Sun – who say they never alleged criminality – say they have no plans to publish further allegations against Edwards.

The young person at the centre of the controversy has said – via their lawyer – that their mother’s claims are “rubbish,” and that “nothing inappropriate or unlawful” has taken place.

Edwards, who has since been suspended, is also facing separate allegations from several other people in their early 20s.

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At the weekend, Sir Tony Blair told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the BBC should “stand up for itself more” when asked about its response to the situation.

As the face of BBC News At 10, the 61-year-old has previously led election night coverage, and broke the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. He was last on air on Wednesday 5 July, covering the King’s visit to Scotland.

Some have questioned The Sun’s decision to publish the original story, and the balance between publishing in the public interest versus the right to privacy has been thrust firmly into the spotlight.

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