Internal sources at Wales’s biggest broadcaster have revealed to The Eye that senior executives and presenters were ‘carpeted’ over their lack of neutrality in social media messages, after last week’s damning report following the Martin Bashir/Princess Diana scandal.
The explosive comments come amid signs that a controversial television newsreader may be about to leave.
One of our contacts at BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) told us: “I know for a fact that people have been spoken to, because this is such a delicate time for the corporation”.
Another divulged: “The bosses don’t want the BBC in the Mail again, so everybody has to play a part, and the public has to be brought with us“.
The remarks were made to our journalists in the wake of publication of the ‘Serota Review’ into governance and culture at the broadcaster across the UK, which was published last week and made a number of strongly-worded recommendations on improving editorial standards.
The review came after contentious remarks were written on Twitter or Facebook (FB) by a number of BBC stars, including the controversial Bridgend-born television presenter Huw Edwards.
Sir Nicholas Serota said in a statement: “There is no doubt the BBC is a very different place to that of 25 years ago and, thankfully, progress has been made.
“Nevertheless, there is an opportunity for the BBC leadership team to go further and ensure that accuracy, impartiality, fairness and integrity are embedded more deeply across the organisation. The BBC can and should be properly held to account against these core values and standards. This can only be achieved through improved transparency and openness, both internally and externally.”
The strengthening of neutrality guidelines are set against a series of biased, offensive, and tendentious social media obervations being made, by presenters on the tax-payer funded BBC.
For example, the BBC Radio Cymru (RC) presenter Rhydian Bowen Phillips has been engulfed in controversy after publicly accusing Tories of being “scum” on Twitter, endorsing a Welsh independence group, and saying money was being “wasted” by the UK Government.
Mr Phillips ‘re-tweeted’ a WalesOnline survey which claimed that most people “…would vote for Cymru to be independent if there was a referendum”, with a Welsh flag after the comment, that “2/3 believe Westminster has performed badly in serving the people of Cymru” and that “3/4 would remove the Monarchy as the Head of State”.
He fronts an RC programme on Saturdays and has declared on social media in the past “I DESPISE the Tories”, stressed that Wales should stand up to Westminster, as well as in one message just saying six times “Wales is a different country to England”.
He tweeted as well: “I just can’t comprehend how so much money is being misdirected..” hashtagging ‘ToryScum’. Mr Phillips has also put a ‘thumbs up’ and Welsh flag after his declaration on the social media site that there should be a “Republic of Wales”.
Mr Phillips has, too, retweeted an announcement that a Brexiteer was “A ruptured pustule on the anus of the country”, and has, as well, tweeted a picture of himself flashing the ‘V’ sign at a poster of Margaret Thatcher.
He is also not above wading into public rows on social media, and on Saturday said on Twitter: “Oh @RichardBridger, you can delete the tweet and protect your account but that won’t stop us from seeing this you small minded little man… (Hashtag) Cymraeg (Welsh flags).
At a UK level as well, it is clear that there is enormous work to be done in underlining the neutrality of presenters, after outrage over the Mr Bashir interview with Princess Diana – and news programmes have been among them.
The BBC Twitter account of newsreader Mr Edwards had earlier been suspended amid claims that his possible departure from the BBC airwaves may have been connected with stricter rules on impartiality, after he endorsed a controversial independence group where ALL the committee members resigned in a row over harassment, and ‘liked’ a tweet saying vote Labour.
The account @huwbbc was discontinued, with officials saying: “Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules”.
In the past his personal Twitter account has declared ironically: “The wacky world where Wales was never a nation and Pembrokeshire is the heartland of… Plaid Cymru. Help!” and he placed a Welsh flag after the comment.
The picture he included 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 presumably ironically) was a “backdrop for @BBCNews at Ten”, and responded (again with presumed irony): “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!”
His comments, though, have not been met with wild acclaim by the former leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) Andrew RT Davies MS, who has said on Twitter that The BBC was: “Employing presenters who openly mock… (Britain)… Ridiculous!”, and linked it to the ‘Gutted’ post.
Mr Davies has also accused, on social media, BBC CW of a “link” with Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC) and that it was “unhealthy”.
This eruption in the long-running saga over alleged links between PC and BBC CW came soon after growing concern about figures who have joined the corporation from PC, and those that have moved in the other direction.
The political journalist at BBC CW Aled ap Dafydd became PC’s Director of Political Strategy and External Relations. Mr ap Dafydd’s transfer followed the appointment of the former PC Chief Executive Rhuanedd Richards as Editor of BBC Radio Cymru (BBC RC) and the Welsh language online service, Cymru Fyw. She has since moved up the ranks and is now ‘Director, Content and Services’ at the broadcaster, which may be seen as intriguing in the light of the comments now from Sir Nicholas that “…there is an opportunity for the BBC leadership team to go further and ensure that accuracy, iMPARTIALITY (our capitals), fairness and integrity are embedded more deeply across the organisation”.
The PC (Member of Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament) for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, was also formerly a leading political journalist at BBC CW, joining the corporation in 1994, with other overlaps known to The Eye.
However Mr Edwards’ tweets follow a familiar pattern.
He has recently ‘liked’ a tweet from a Welsh nationalist wearing a face mask of the controversial independence organisation YesCymru (YC), even though 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”, and by doing so he had, in effect, validated it. It was, though, a highly-questionable supposed ‘survey’ where Mr Edwards had been ‘voted’ top to become leader of an independent Wales, which most people oppose.
Mr Edwards has been, as well, accused of political bias, after he ‘liked’ a tweet saying: “Vote Labour for the National Health Service”.
Meanwhile contentious Nation.Cymru (NC) published a ‘news’ piece saying: “Broadcaster Huw Edwards has protested the BBC’s new rules on using social media by unleashing a cascade of Welsh flags”, and our Editor Phil Parry (who worked at the BBC for 23 years) received huge personal abuse on social media for reporting it.
However it is believed that he might be about to move to a less sensitive, more entertainment-based, role outside the BBC ALTOGETHER, and it seems reasonable to wonder whether this might be connected to the current move to tighten the rules on impartiality.
It has been reported that Mr Edwards was in talks to replace Piers Morgan on ‘Good Morning Britain’ following the Life Stories star’s exit from the ITV programme.
In August he ‘opened up’ (as has been published) to RC about his future as the anchor of BBC News at Ten, saying that he found hosting the nightly news programme ‘taxing’ after two decades, saying: “A time comes when you’re bound to reassess what’s in front of you”.
There is also bound to be an assessment of our news that sources at BBC CW have told us senior figures were told off over their lack of impartiality in social media messages, coming hard on the heels of a damning report into neutrality following the furore over the Princess Diana interview…