Danny Shaw

The BBC still has questions to answer over Huw Edwards

Huw Edwards (image: BBC)

Huw Edwards is in hospital. That shocking news, in a statement from his wife, Vicky Flind, delivered an icy blast of reality to a news story that had bubbled out of control for six days, dangerously so for the BBC.

Although reporters in its News division, where I worked for 31 years, had covered the events rigorously and sensitively, breaking new lines and analysing developments with care, the same surefootedness cannot be said for the BBC’s corporate arm. Their handling of the affair raises serious questions about complaints procedures, staff welfare and privacy.

The BBC’s rationale for not naming Edwards (until his wife did so) remains unclear

When the initial complaint about the News at Ten presenter was received on May 19, alarm bells should have sounded. Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, has said the allegations, in a 29-minute phone call to a member of the audience services team, did not at that stage cross the criminal threshold but were ‘very serious’. Why then did the broadcaster’s internal investigations unit follow up on only two occasions? They emailed the complainant and phoned two-and-a-half weeks later. Neither elicited any response. If a BBC journalist, tasked with looking into ‘very serious’ allegations, had made such cursory attempts to contact a key player in the story their editor would rightly have demanded they try harder. Phone at different times, reach out on social media, send a letter or knock on the door. 

It is true that BBC staff, particularly those who are household names, are often complained about – everything from the colour of their ties to the slant of an interview are considered fair game. One former BBC executive told me he was astonished by the volume of complaints when he first started working there. I was on the receiving end a few times, usually about the content of my broadcasts or articles.

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