Senior officials have reacted with horror to exclusive revelations on The Eye that prominent broadcasting figures in Wales informed the public about taking a journey to the beach over Christmas, yet also gave details of lockdown restrictions which warn against it.
One Welsh local authority executive said: “This is awful. How can the public be expected to follow lockdown rules, when the people who tell them about them are going to the beach?!”.
A government official told us: “This is difficult for everyone, and people are trying so hard. This, though, undermines everything we are trying to do”.
Their comments have been underlined by last night’s announcement by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson about a stronger lockdown in England, with schools closed and people allowed to leave home once a day for exercise only.
Lucy Owen, the presenter of BBC Cymru Wales Today (WT), as well as a past programme on BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW), tweeted over Christmas about how she had taken a trip to the beach at Southerndown in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Meanwhile the Editor of RW Colin Paterson (with whom she conducted a controversial affair even though his executives had commissioned a programme she fronted) posted a Facebook (FB) video on Christmas Day, about how he did the same thing at nearby Ogmore, saying how “Balmy” it was.
Yet the Welsh Government (WG) rules appeared clear: “If you are travelling away from home, you should travel to meet your Christmas bubble and return home in the course of 25 December.
“..You should keep taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus, and this will help ensure that you enjoy Christmas Day as safely as possible.”
Travel advice from South Wales Police (SWP) warned people against going to beaches, saying: “you shouldn’t be driving to these places”.
Bizarrely Mr Paterson had also retweeted details of the lockdown restrictions from his own radio station which covered the Christmas period.
In the days which followed their contentious announcement of trips to the beach, the public was officially urged to “Please follow the rules”
The website ‘Visit the Vale’ stated: “Wales is now in Tier 4 lockdown. This means that you should not travel to the coast for exercise purposes unless you end your journey on foot… We know it’s difficult, and asking you to stay away is very hard to do…”, with a link to the Welsh Government (WG) site about the rules.
Earlier, as restrictions were strengthened then, it was confirmed that swathes of the UK already in tier three would remain there.
Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary told MPs: “We’ve come so far, we mustn’t blow it now”.
Yet even as Mr Paterson and Mrs Owen posted their social media messages, it was clear that going to the beach over Christmas had made alarming headlines across the world.
It was reported that Australia could deport British backpackers flouting the lockdown rules after hundreds of revellers gathered at a party on a Sydney beach.
Videos shared on social media showed crowds on Bronte Beach on Christmas Day despite the restrictions, and the scenes have been described as “absolutely appalling”.
But Mrs Owen has made the news before, and again not always for the right reasons.
When she was presenting WT, programme-makers used a picture of Brighton Pavilion during coverage of the start of the hugely important Muslim month of Ramadan instead of a mosque, and the mistake was then featured in the Brighton Argus.
One Twitter user complained: “BBC Wales showing a picture of the Brighton Pavilion and getting it confused for a mosque when talking about Ramadan is kind of f****d?”.
Another wrote furiously: “Not happy they’ve used a shot of Brighton Pavilion as though it’s a mosque (presumably)”.
Journalists on The Eye have been alone in showing that Mrs Owen was having an affair with Mr Paterson, and for many staff at BBC CW the relationship represented a huge potential conflict of interest because a RW programme had been commissioned hosted by Mrs Owen called ‘Sunday morning with Lucy Owen’. Media executives both inside as well as outside the corporation have told The Eye that they were worried about their partnership’s possible impact on the process.
The ‘predictive search results’ in ‘Google’ for Mrs Owen and her husband Rhodri have been, perhaps, prescient. They have said “Lucy Owen Rhodri Owen split”.
Mrs Owen evidently has a great passion for making announcements on social media.
Also over Christmas she treated everyone to a video of how she suffered a “turkey drama” by leaving plastic on the Christmas roast, but critics say this cannot compare to the crisis endured by the families to whom she broadcasts every night with the latest lockdown rules.
She declared as she showed us what had happened: “I left a bit of the plastic on it…”
In the past, she has also described as a ‘crisis’ wearing odd shoes into the office to broadcast the lunchtime bulletin, and asked whether anyone would notice.
She even included for us a shocked face emoji after that comment, and following it Mrs Owen published on Twitter: “Crisis over!”.
Yet detractors say that she could have focused on the BBC CW website saying the same day that coronavirus/Covid-19 was the biggest cause of death in Wales in November.
Apart from presenting WT, and the RW programme, she also hosts the BBC One Wales (BBCW) consumer affairs programme ‘X-Ray’ with her husband, Rhodri, who it’s predicted she will split from.
She has published a book which raises funds for the Noah’s Ark Charity for the Children’s Hospital of Wales called ‘Boo-a-bog in the Park’.
Mrs Owen has proclaimed: “The story is about how a little boy gets though a situation that is challenging for him with the help of an imaginary friend. But it’s all about finding any way through a difficult time or situation. It’s been a real family affair, with Rhod translating, and Gabs (then eight year old son) came up with idea for Boo-a-bog fun and games at the end of the book.
“And the link to the charity as well makes it extra special for us. The theme of the story feels a good fit with the charity.”
Yet it seems Mrs Owen’s recent antics might not have been a good fit with the public she broadcasts lockdown restrictions to.
Top officials in Wales have told us that going to the beach was the wrong thing to do for her and her former lover…
Tomorrow – the BBC programme which ended in the same week that the career of its presenter was celebrated on television, despite the fact he had been accused of ‘inappropriate behaviour’.
The memories of our Editor Phil Parry’s remarkable decades-long award-winning career in journalism (including his years at The BBC) as he was gripped by the rare disabling neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’ (which is very different to Mrs Owen’s own book). Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!