Reporting trouble

The Eye
Latest posts by The Eye (see all)

A top-level review into BBC procedures which was revealed in a huge number of media outlets, and found that there were “risks to impartiality”, highlights extraordinary failures by the giant corporation during the appalling Huw Edwards and Gary Lineker fiascos, with one former executive telling The Eye: “Heads should roll”.

Leigh Tavaziva said they needed to do better

Leigh Tavaziva, the organisation’s Group Chief Operating Officer (GCOO) stated about ANOTHER report, that it showed: “…we need to join them (processes and systems) up better to ensure no matter how a non-editorial complaint comes into the BBC it is escalated swiftly, when needed, and dealt with by the right people”.

Apart from the announcement that “Heads should roll” a further manager (who’s still at the BBC), said to us: “Davie’s (Director General [DG] Tim Davie’s) 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”.

Tim Davie has nothing to smile about

This latest investigation (commissioned by the BBC itself in April 2023) into its coverage of migration was carried out by Dr Madeline Sumption of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

She found that while the BBC “produces a lot of excellent content on migration…there are also weaknesses”, and it “often tells migration stories through a narrow political lens”.

There is a very clear code of conduct apparently

These comments appear to endorse earlier examples of ‘weaknesses’ at the institution.

For example they were forced to apologise for the way they handled complaints which led to the downfall of Mr Edwards, despite an assurance that a “very clear code of conduct” was followed. He has now resigned from the BBC.

The allegations about Mr Edwards were made in May of last year but did not reach senior managers until July 6, with the complaint not being “escalated quickly enough”. This situation underlines how Wales has played a central role in the scandal.

Readers were told of senior BBC managers being alerted

The latest condemnatory review of the corporation’s coverage of migration, revealed after this incredible episode will worry onlookers.

The Sunday Times (ST) (among many outlets) reported earlier news about the BBC being alerted to Mr Edwards’ dubious behaviour, and has said: “In May 2021, a woman, then in her late forties, got in touch with the BBC after exchanging messages with Mr Edwards first on Instagram then on email, requesting that the corporation intervene to halt contact”.

Our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry spent 23 years at the organisation, both in Cardiff and London, and says he has been left in a state of shock by what has happened, with this stance being emphasised by others.

An OUTSIDE report by Deloitte into the BBC’s complaints handling procedure was highly-critical and said that a grievance about Mr Edwards by the family of a young person was made on May 18 2023.

But the case was not logged on the giant corporation’s ‘case management system’ so there “was no opportunity for wider visibility of the case within the BBC.

The Deloitte report has exposed what happened

“There was no documented process for contact with the complainant and/or follow up”, the report noted.

It also found that there was a need for “greater consistency” in how complaints are processed, and emphasised the appalling fact that when attempts to make contact were unsuccessful, the course of action was not clear. 

Did Tim Davie try to avoid answering reporters’ questions?

Journalists who covered the unbelievable incident, have stressed criticism of the BBC, saying that executives effectively clammed up about it.

For example, one Sky journalist declared at the time: “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”.

Tim Davie has a lot to think about

Yet senior executives seemingly took a different view. During a pre-arranged House of Lords (H of L) Communications Committee (CC) hearing about a week afterwards, the BBC’s DG, Mr Davie, said: We have been in touch with the complainant”, and that due to the “history of this industry… we should all be concerned and appropriately diligent around the abuse of people in powerful positions”.

Dame Elan Closs Stephens said the BBC had behaved properly

He proclaimed that when it came to presenters or people in power, it was important to be “very very clear about what your expectations are culturally as well as the policy”. Mr Davie was “proud of the work we’ve done over last few years” as there is now a “very clear code of conduct”. In that hearing he sat alongside acting chairwoman, Dame Elan Closs Stephens from Wales.

She and Mr Davie were forced to answer important queries about the corporation’s attitude during the affair, following suggestions that it did not properly investigate the original complaint (which has now been borne out by the Deloitte report). Dame Elan told peers that despite “huge pressure” to name Mr Edwards, the corporation “had a duty to act with some calm and rationality in the face of lack of rationality and lack of calm”.

Huw Edwards was ‘outed’ by his wife Vicky Flind

This came after days of speculation about who the presenter was who had been suspended for allegedly paying £35,000 to a teenager in exchange for sexually explicit images, and Mr Edwards was finally ‘outed’ by his wife.

A news item stated: “Vicky Flind, the wife of news reader Huw Edwards, has named him as the BBC presenter facing allegations over payments for sexually explicit images in a statement issued on his behalf.

‘I regret everything. I must quit.’

Harmful claims then emerged about Mr Edwards’ actions generally at the BBC, but MailOnline said that senior executives “moaned” about missing Wimbledon and the Ashes to deal with them.

There have been accusations that apart from the main story involving one young person, others were 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 further allegations emerged following the original ones made in The Sun (the paper said it had a dossier of his alleged activities, but has chosen not to publish).

Huw Edwards always looked concerned when he presented coverage of a Royal funeral and was in a high pay bracket

He was also accused of sending inappropriate messages to BBC employees. According to Newsnight, one current staff member claimed 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”.

Mr Edwards was the BBC’s most well paid newsreader in a pay bracket of £435,000 to £439,999 – putting him fourth on the top 10 list, the corporation’s annual report revealed – yet it has now all come crashing down.

Mark Berkowski said it was an ongoing car crash

During the days in which Mr Edwards went unnamed as the presenter at the centre of the 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 colleagues.

However the supposed attitude of senior executives during the crisis also made headlines. One official reportedly said: “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 sank to in the eyes of the public. It said: “BBC – Blokes Bumming Children”.

This reputation will have sunk even lower after a report into the corporation’s migration coverage, which said there were “risks to impartiality” as well as “weaknesses”