A controversial television presenter in Wales who endorsed a Cardiff shop on Twitter and told us how she had gone to the beach when everyone else was governed by lockdown rules, has again caused outrage within her organisation by using social media to back another private business, saying that she couldn’t “wait to come and party with you soon”.
One former senior BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) journalist said of the BBC Wales Today (WT) newsreader Lucy Owen: “She has crossed the line here. Not only is there no attempt to give the other side, or the view of competitors. It’s the sort of thing we all get from porn sites!” Another told us: “This shows complete naivety. There’s no impartiality. Here we have a reporter or presenter promising to participate in an activity she’s reporting on”.
A further employee, still at the corporation, told us about the host of WT (on which our Editor Phil Parry worked from 1987 – 1989): “This is incredible. Not only does it look like the kind of thing that might be tweeted by an East European hooker, it’s completely against the rules”.
Mrs Owen showed a tweet of glowing praise from a bar in Cardiff, writing after three hand clap emojis: “thank you so much for the absolutely gorgeous welcome there, can’t wait to come and party with you soon! #BBCWalesToday looks fabulous on your screens!”.
The bar describes itself as “the premium gay cabaret bar on St Mary’s Street, Cardiff” and the tweet said: “We were all watching tonight @lucyowenwales” replying to Mrs Owen, drag queen ‘Victoria Scone‘ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race‘.
But Mrs Owen has rarely been far from the headlines for other reasons in the past, and the issue of neutrality at the BBC is a highly sensitive one.
An enormous row has developed over the impartiality, or lack of it, of Jess Brammar (one time Editor-in-Chief of HuffPost UK) who has just been appointed to a hugely-important role overseeing the News Channel, and its international equivalent, BBC World.
Ms Brammar had accused the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of lying in a television interview, and also compared Brexit to the TV comedy drama series Better Call Saul, but that it was “less funny or interesting or enjoyable”.
In a since-deleted tweet she had suggested that black people would leave the UK if Mr Johnson were re-elected in 2019. In another post she recommended buying a book about British imperialism by Sathnam Sanghera “to piss off all the racists having a go at him”.
Ms Brammar also wrote about “how it’s not even controversial to say there is racism in the British press”.
Earlier this year, she criticised the Society of Editors’ response to claims by Meghan Markle of racism in the British press. “I’m aware I won’t make myself popular with my peers”, Ms Brammar tweeted, “but I’m just going to stand up and say it: I don’t agree with [the] statement from my industry body that it is ‘untrue that sections of the UK press were bigoted’”.
Yet the BBC rules state clearly: “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, like Ms Brammar, Mrs Owen has also long been the subject of controversy.
Apart from thanking a shop for her dress which she then wore on WT, she tweeted over Christmas about how she had taken a trip to the beach at Southerndown in the Vale of Glamorgan, yet travel advice from South Wales Police (SWP) at the time warned people against going to beaches, saying: “you shouldn’t be driving to these places”.
The Welsh Government (WG) rules, then, also 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”. When Mrs Owen made her comment on Twitter, the website ‘Visit the Vale’ had 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.
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”.
Meanwhile the Editor of BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW) Colin Paterson (with whom she had conducted a headline-grabbing 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.
Evidently events at Christmas time were problematic for Mrs Owen, who told us in a video post about how she had suffered a “turkey drama” by leaving plastic on the roast, but critics say this cannot compare to the pandemic crisis endured by the families to whom she broadcasted every night then with the latest lockdown rules.
She declared as she showed us what had happened to the roast: “I left a bit of the plastic on it…”
As well as saying about a bar that she couldn’t “wait to come and party with you soon”, she has also used Twitter to tell us about the look of the shoes she wears.
She has proclaimed: “Whoops. Just realised I’ve brought odd shoes in for the (hashtag) BBCWalesToday lunchtime bulletin. Even worse, it’s two left ones! Think anyone will notice? (shocked face emoji).
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)”.
Previous leading employees do not seem amused by what is happening generally at BBC CW.
One time DJ at RW Mike Flynn told The Eye exclusively: “The amount of money being spent for little or no return is a disgrace.
“We need to see the numbers of people tuning in to the various programmes and this should be a matter of public scrutiny. Paterson and Rhodri Talfan Davies (BBC CW Director) have no excuse.”
Meanwhile, our journalists have been alone in showing that the married Mrs Owen was having an affair with Mr Paterson, and for many staff at BBC CW the relationship represented a major 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.
She has been, however, considerate in other matters.
Mrs Owen included for us a shocked face emoji after her ‘Turkey drama’ comment, and following it she published on Twitter about her shoes: “Crisis over!”. Yet detractors say that, instead, she could have focused on the BBC CW website saying the same day that coronavirus/Covid-19 had been the biggest cause of death in Wales in November.
Apart from presenting WT, and in the past the BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW) programme, she also hosts the BBC One Wales (BBC1W) consumer affairs programme ‘X-Ray’ with her husband, Rhodri.
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 announced: “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.”
But it is unlikely to be a good fit for a television newsreader in Wales to tell us how she had gone to the beach when everyone else was governed by lockdown rules, and to cause outrage at the institution she works in, because she said about a bar that she couldn’t “wait to come and party with you soon”…
Tomorrow – why RW has been publicly lambasted on an internet forum for being in “a very deep hole”.
The memories of our Editor Phil Parry’s remarkable decades-long award-winning career in journalism (including his 23 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 from Mrs Owen’s own book). Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.