As the fallout continues following the Huw Edwards affair, major questions are now being asked of the BBC, amid uncertainty over its head’s future, and issues raised about whether the corporation’s ‘duty of care’, and complaints processes are fit for purpose.
One former executive at the corporation told The Eye: “Davie’s (Director General [DG] of the BBC, Tim Davie) 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”.
After days in which Mr Edwards went unnamed as the presenter at the centre of an 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, the former BBC news producer and director of News-watch, spoke of “reputational damage” to the man’s collea
Our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry who spent 23 years in the organisation, both in Cardiff and London, said of the events which have unfolded since: “What has happened was unbelievable – it’s been like watching a car crash in slow motion.
“First there was the embarrassment of the Gary Lineker affair, now this. The man at the top has overall responsibility. Tim Davie should go”.
Mr Edwards was named as the presenter who had been suspended for allegedly paying £35,000 to a teenager in exchange for sexually explicit images, and ‘mental health issues’ were raised about him by his wife.
Entertainment Canada has reported: “BBC News Anchor Huw Edwards identified as TV Presenter Accused Of Paying Underage Boy For Nude Photos”.
However nowhere in her statement was it mentioned the possible mental health issues at stake for the young people at the centre of the saga.
Details about it were featured yesterday on the front page of every major UK newspaper, and it was the lead story in most of them.
More harmful claims also emerged about Mr Edwards’ behaviour at the BBC, and MailOnline said that senior executives “moaned” about missing Wimbledon and the Ashes to deal with the mounting crisis.
One official reportedly declared: “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 has sunk to in the eyes of the public. It said: “BBC – Blokes Bumming Children”.
Mr Davie could now be held culpable for the way this has all been handled.
The corporation looks bad over how slowly actions were taken to address the initial complaint – it was seven weeks before the presenter was spoken to.
The initial investigations team only sent a single email, and made one phone call that did not connect to the initial complainant, in order to try to verify the claim.
It was only when contacted by The Sun last Thursday that the BBC spoke to Mr Edwards and he was taken off air.
Officials also seemed to have been tardy in talking to the media about it.
For an interview which did not directly concern the Edwards scandal, Mr Davie entered an official building through a loading bay to, in the words of Sky, avoid answering reporters’ questions.
He appeared on BBC Radio 4’s World At One (WatO) programme, but did not given an interview to any other news outlet.
“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”, said one Sky journalist.
There have been accusations that apart from the main story involving one young person, others are 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 now further allegations have emerged following the original ones made in The Sun (the paper says it has a dossier of his alleged activities, but has chosen not to publish).
The claims may be particularly damaging for the corporation, because he has been accused of sending inappropriate messages to BBC employees.
According to Newsnight, one current staff member claims 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.
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”.
It could be cold, as well, for the man at the top, if he is kicked out over recent events…