Critics of an outspoken Welsh television newsreader believe his possible departure from the airwaves may be connected with stricter rules on impartiality, or unwelcome headlines about his pay, after he endorsed a controversial independence group where ALL the committee members resigned in a row over harassment, ‘liked’ a tweet saying vote Labour, and said he was “angered” that his salary had been revealed, it has emerged.
Speaking in Welsh, contentious BBC television newsreader Huw Edwards (who ‘earns’ £425,000 a year although some newspapers say it is more), said: “The nightly news business, after 20 years, that can be taxing, even though I still enjoy the job. But I don’t think I’ll be doing that for long. Because I believe that, in the first place, I think it’s fair for the viewers to get a change. Secondly, I have co-workers who are very talented – it’s time to give them a chance too”. The letters ‘BBC’ have also been dropped from the Twitter handle of Mr Edwards.
But one commentator told The Eye: “I don’t think it is anything to do with the job being taxing after 20 years. I reckon it’s because of the BBC rules on impartiality, and all that news about his pay”. Another said: “Huw Edwards is anything but neutral, and there is the stuff about the money he gets. I think those are the reasons he’s going. I pay his wages, but then I read his messages on Twitter and it makes my blood boil.
“He has raised his flag for some time on where he wants to go. One thing is for sure, he won’t be hitting any global hotspots in person any time soon”.
BBC bosses are unlikely to be pleased by negative information in UK newspapers recently.
The Express reported last Thursday that, apart from his licence-fee payers’ salary, Mr Edwards also ‘earned’ up to £25,000 per speaking engagement through an outside agency.
The paper’s website declared: “Huw Edwards is making financial gains away from the BBC obligations through public speaking. The BBC News anchor is commanding £10,000 to £25,000 per engagement through a celebrity agency”.
A columnist in The Daily Telegraph suggested he should not complain when he was earning so much. The Sun published a report that: “HUW Edwards is ready to quit the BBC after hitting out at his bosses for revealing his £500,000-plus pay”.
Managers will be aware that as well as this huge payment, Mr Edwards has, too, used social media extensively to promote his Welsh nationalist views. Yet the corporation’s rules on neutrality apparently forbid this, and state: “If your work requires you to maintain your impartiality, don’t express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or ‘controversial subjects’”.
However, Mr Edwards has recently ‘liked’ a tweet from a Welsh nationalist wearing a face mask of the controversial independence organisation YesCymru (YC), even though earlier this month the group’s entire ‘Central Committee’ quit, and an email announcing the mass resignations, said that members had been subject to intolerable harassment which “went far beyond social media posts”.
He has also ‘liked’ a tweet proclaiming he should be “President of an Independent Cymru”, once again apparently flying in the face of the rules on impartiality that have been emphasised by his superior, the BBC’s Director General Tim Davie (who stood to be a councillor for the Conservatives in Hammersmith and was deputy of the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative and Unionist Party).
In ‘liking’ this tweet, Mr Edwards had in effect validated it – but it was a highly-questionable supposed ‘survey’ where he had been ‘voted’ top to become leader of an independent Wales.
Mr Edwards has been, too, accused of political bias, after he ‘liked’ a tweet saying: “Vote Labour for the National Health Service”.
Another tweet he published, again seemed to go against the guidelines, highlighting as it did (ironically): “The wacky world where Wales was never a nation and Pembrokeshire is the heartland of… Plaid Cymru. Help!”. The picture he attached underneath it, was of protesters carrying Welsh flags aloft with a placard of END LONDON RULE clearly visible near the centre of the photograph.
He was ordered to drop a post of himself in front of a Welsh flag, which he proclaimed (once more ironically) was a “backdrop for @BBCNews at Ten”, and responded (again ironically): “Gutted my pro-flag tweet has been cut down in its prime. By order. But it will be back tomorrow – by popular demand. Meanwhile enjoy this magnificent flag – one of my favourites. Hashtag SixNationsRugby Hashtag FRAvWAL” – with a series of emojis included.
This tweet by Mr Edwards, came after a flurry of pro-Wales activity on his Twitter page before an international rugby match against France, when he stepped in following the performance of the Welsh rugby team being criticised in The Daily Telegraph.
“Every Grand Slam ranked – and why Wales would be the ‘worst’ ever winners if they beat France”, ran the newspaper’s headline, to which Mr Edwards responded with heavy irony: “Not like the @Telegraph to be so effortlessly one-sided… Cymru am Byth!”
Before the gripping game a supporter of his, shared a series of pictures on Twitter (including one of Mr Edwards being licked by his dog), which he showed his approval of, by saying: “Share the love this epic thread was the tonic I needed – before kick off”.
His announcements, though, have not been met with wild acclaim by the leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) Andrew RT Davies, who has said on Twitter that The BBC was: “Employing presenters who openly mock… (Britain)… Ridiculous!”, and linked it to the ‘Gutted’ post.
These messages fall into a familiar pattern, and in an earlier post Mr Edwards had endorsed, as well, an opinionated columnist who said she was a “Welsh woman” and that the BBC Proms made her feel like a “foreign tourist”.
He had backed headline-grabbing writer and academic Laura McAllister’s Twitter announcement that there was less than two months before she stood for election to a football governing body’s council.
Mr Edwards stated on Twitter, initially once again ironically: “Obviously I’m impartial —- but GO LAURA” with a Welsh flag after the comment. However more than six years ago (well before the row over how the proms are presented), Ms McAllister had written in her regular Welsh newspaper column: “I do realise that my national identity has been shaped and expressed largely through sport, but the Proms’ Union Jack waving (albeit with a smattering of European, Welsh and Scottish flags mixed in) and Rule Britannia make me feel like a foreign tourist”.
Mr Davie will be aware of the pressure he is under because of (reputable) opinion polls, and that it is crucial his presenters are neutral, because, in Mr Edwards’ case, some may disagree with his views on Wales, and they do (as the critic who spoke to us made clear), pay his wages.
Recent comments on social media, though, are not the only ones where Mr Edwards’ views have been on public display.
He attacked a critique of the break-up of the UK by celebrated historian and journalist Max Hastings. Mr Edwards tweeted that there were “errors”.
His comments in support of Wales, or backing Labour policies, are often seized on gleefully, by a nationalist website which is backed by the taxpayer.
After Mr Edwards’ diatribe opposing Mr Hastings, the website Nation.Cymru (NC) published a ‘news’ piece saying: “Huw Edwards slams former Telegraph editor for anti-Welsh language article”, and it has ‘reported’ many ‘stories’ about his exploits. Following the remark about Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC), it ran a ‘story’ that: “Broadcaster Huw Edwards has protested the BBC’s new rules on using social media by unleashing a cascade of Welsh flags”.
But the founder and former Editor of NC, Ifan Morgan Jones, is himself controversial and a firm supporter of PC. He has been in trouble for accepting an advert from the Bangor University (BU) journalism course that HE teaches on, which detractors claimed was a blatant conflict of interest. They have also stressed the disturbing fact that teaching ‘journalism’ in this context appears odd when being unbiased is an important part of reporting news.
One NC ‘news’ piece said that: “The county of Gwynedd in the north-west has seen the largest collapse in consumer spending as a result of Covid-19 in both Wales and England, according to business data”, while another attacked the concept of second homes.
Yet one aggrieved writer hit back and said: “I am genuinely concerned by the amount of vitriol that comes out in the comments on the Nation.Cymru posts, and it makes me feel that we are uncomfortably close to the political posturing of 1930s Berlin”.
The article on NC criticising the concept of second homes, also appeared to have the Covid-19 lockdown in its sights, and began: “If it’s ‘coronavirus holiday’ season in rural Wales, the forecast is frosty for second home owners”, adding: “From spreading the virus and skipping lockdown to unfairly claiming business relief, second home owners have had bad pandemic press”.
But it could be longer than just a holiday for Mr Edwards if, as critics believe, his possible departure from the airwaves may be connected with stricter rules on impartiality, or protests about his large pay packet in the UK media.
It has come amid him criticising those who attack the Welsh language, endorsing a controversial independence group where ALL the committee members have resigned in a row over harassment, ‘liking’ a tweet saying vote Labour, and The Sun picking up on the fact he said he was “angered” by BBC bosses revealing his salary…
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