Down and out

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‘I regret everything. I must quit.’

The shocking revelation that the disgraced, once-high-flying Welsh newsreader Huw Edwards has now resigned from the BBC, again puts centre stage the whole massive controversy, and how Wales has been at the heart of it.

The BBC have said it was “on medical advice”, although it is likely that events over the last few months played a significant part so it is worth re-capping.

The statement from the giant corporation today about Mr Edwards leaving, continues: “The BBC has accepted his resignation which it believes will allow all parties to move forward”.

The BBC have said it was “on medical advice”

After days of speculation about the identity of the presenter who had been suspended for allegedly paying thousands of pounds to a teenager in exchange for sexually explicit images, Mr Edwards was finally ‘outed’ by his wife.

A news item on the website of the corporation for which he read the news every night, stated: “Vicky Flind, the wife of news reader Huw Edwards, has named him as the BBC presenter facing allegations over payments for sexually explicit images in a statement issued on his behalf.

This month, it has been reported that Mr Edwards returned to Wales to seek “sanctuary”. In a UK newspaper, it was published: “The Mail understands the 62-year-old newsreader, who was suspended last July following allegations that a then-unnamed presenter had paid a young person ‘more than £35,000’ for sexually explicit images, has taken sanctuary in his beloved Wales and is being comforted in Carmarthenshire by his mother Aerona”.

Harmful claims have emerged about Mr Edwards’ actions generally at the BBC, but MailOnline said that senior executives “moaned” about missing Wimbledon and the Ashes to deal with them.

There have been accusations that apart from the main story involving one young person, others were involved too, and that the presenter broke Covid-19 lockdown rules to meet one of them. It has been claimed that Mr Edwards sent ‘menacing’ texts to one individual, and further allegations emerged following the original ones made in The Sun (the paper said it had a dossier of his alleged activities, but has chosen not to publish).

The Newsnight audience heard that messages left a BBC staff member feeling uncomfortable

He was also accused of sending inappropriate messages to BBC employees. According to Newsnight, one current staff member claimed they were contacted on social media by him, and the messages left them feeling uncomfortable as well as awkward. The messages were reportedly suggestive in nature, appeared to be flirtatious, and referred to the appearance of Mr Edwards’ colleague. “There is a power dynamic that makes this inappropriate”, the staff member said.

Huw Edwards won’t have told the late Queen about his alleged behaviour

Another BBC employee alleged that Mr Edwards had also sent them a private message on social media which commented, too, on their appearance and gave them a “cold shudder”.

Mr Edwards was the BBC’s most well paid newsreader in a pay bracket of £435,000 to £439,999 – putting him fourth on the top 10 list, the corporation’s annual report revealed – yet it has now all come crashing down.

Tim Davie has nothing to smile about

Mr Edwards is originally from Bridgend, and this controversy came hard on the heels of others with his bias towards Wales a central issue, and the BBC’s Director General (DG) Tim Davie, has been put under huge pressure.

One former executive at the corporation told our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry: Davie’s leadership credentials are in the spotlight. First the Lineker fiasco and now the Edwards’ public relations car crash. These episodes have done immeasurable damage to the BBC and both could have been avoided by immediate intervention”.

What has happened has made Phil extremely angry…

Phil spent 23 years at the organisation, both in Cardiff and London, and says he has been left in a state of shock by what has happened, and this stance has been underlined by others.

During the days in which Mr Edwards went unnamed as the presenter at the centre of the alleged sex scandal, the publicist and strategist Mark Berkowski told Times Radio: “We’ve got a situation where it’s an ongoing car crash and the BBC is so glacial about how they’re dealing with this, because this is a 21st century problem,”

David Keighley said there was ‘reputational damage’

David Keighley, the former BBC news producer and director of News-watch, spoke of “reputational damage” to the man’s colleagues.

However the supposed attitude of senior executives during the crisis also made headlines. One official reportedly said: “The only time I’ve seen my wife this weekend is when she was on TV”, adding: “We are all so sick and tired of these people”The Times also reported it.

A spoof mock up of a former BBC logo which circulated on the internet may not have been accurate, but showed the depths the corporation’s reputation sank to in the eyes of the public. It said: “BBC – Blokes Bumming Children”.

The BBC have apologised for the way it handled the complaint, although at the time it had made a public assurance that a “very clear code of conduct” was followed.

The Deloitte report has exposed what happened

Allegations about the behaviour of Mr Edwards were made in May but did not reach senior managers until July 6, with the complaint not being “escalated quickly enough”. An independent report by Deloitte into the BBC’s complaints handling procedure said a grievance about Mr Edwards by the family of the young person was made on May 18.

Huw Edwards always looked sombre when he was reporting details of a Royal funeral

But the case was not logged on the ‘case management system’ so there “was no opportunity for wider visibility of the case within the BBCThere was no documented process for contact with the complainant and/or follow up”.

It found there was a need for “greater consistency” in how complaints are processed, and emphasised the appalling fact that when attempts to make contact were unsuccessful, the course of action was not clear.

Leigh Tavaziva said they needed to do better

Leigh Tavaziva, the corporation’s Group Chief Operating Officer (GCOO) said: “Although our existing processes and systems are, on the whole, working effectively, this review shows that we need to join them up better to ensure no matter how a non-editorial complaint comes into the BBC it is escalated swiftly, when needed, and dealt with by the right people”.

Did Tim Davie try to avoid answering reporters’ questions?

Journalists who covered the extraordinary incident, have apparently endorsed criticism that the BBC effectively clammed up about it. For example, one Sky journalist declared at the time: “The fact all of us broadcasters have asked, have put in requests again and again to speak to the director general, and the fact that he has only given an interview to his own people is not a good look for the BBC”.

Yet senior executives seemingly took a different view.

Tim Davie told parliamentarians it was important to be “very very clear”, but to critics of the BBC, policy about presenters’ behaviour was as clear as mud

During a pre-arranged House of Lords (H of L) Communications Committee (CC) hearing about a week afterwards, Mr Davie said: We have been in touch with the complainant”, and that due to the “history of this industry… we should all be concerned and appropriately diligent around the abuse of people in powerful positions”. He proclaimed that when it came to presenters or people in power, it was important to be “very very clear about what your expectations are culturally as well as the policy”. Mr Davie was “proud of the work we’ve done over last few years” as there is now a “very clear code of conduct”.

In that hearing investigating the BBC he sat alongside acting chairwoman, Dame Elan Closs Stephens from Wales.

She and Mr Davie were forced to answer important queries about the corporation’s attitude during the affair, following suggestions that it did not properly investigate the original complaint (which has been borne out by the Deloitte report).

Huw Edwards is not on our screens and has now left the BBC altogether

Dame Elan told peers that despite “huge pressure” to name Mr Edwards, the corporation “had a duty to act with some calm and rationality in the face of lack of rationality and lack of calm”.

Perhaps Mr Edwards may also have been acting with some calm and rationality’ by resigning!