The BBC’s Huw Edwards Dilemma

Huw Edwards

The BBC today said sorry to the family of the young person who complained about the behaviour of star presenter Huw Edwards. It follows a review of non-editorial complaints procedures conducted by Deloitte. 

Leigh Tavaziva, BBC Group Chief Operating Officer commented:

Although our existing processes and systems are, on the whole, working effectively, this review shows that we need to join them 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. 

Where the review identifies process improvements we accept those in full, and we are delivering on an action plan with a number of enhancements already in place.  

Specifically on Edwards, although she doesn’t name him, Tavaziva said:

The report identifies specific process shortcomings in the presenter case. The initial complaint in this case was not escalated quickly enough to senior management and we have apologised to the complainant for this.

The BBC is, as a general rule, not responsible for the behaviour of its thousands of employees when they are off the clock. However, the lines can be blurry, particularly when the story relates to a figure as prominent and powerful as Edwards. It is hard to calculate the damage the whole sorry saga had on Aunty. If nothing else, it lost one of its most high-profile stars, one who had led the country through some defining moments of recent history. The perception, acknowledged in the above statement, that the BBC did not act quickly enough, to respond to some serious allegations is damning.

A Huw-ge Problem

As the story originally developed, the corporation had to spend days talking about itself, always a sorry sight. Of course, it has had to report on today’s news too and there will be more to come when Edwards, who had inpatient mental health care following the revelations, inevitably speaks publicly. 

Indeed, one former senior newsroom staffer told me that “the BBC still hasn’t worked out how to deal with this at all” and “this is just going to dredge it up again.”

“The eyes have to be on the long-term solution,” they said. One option could be Edwards showing remorse for what has happened  “which he’s shown no sign of doing. So the only other option is the BBC has to put him through a disciplinary process.” That would seem an unpleasant path for all concerned to pursue.

Ultimately the former staffer believes there is “no sign of a strategy for “finishing this off.”

But finish it off the BBC must. A UK General Election is looming. Edwards has previously led the coverage of such nights and the subsequent fallout, but clearly, that will not be happening this time. Huw Edwards not working but continuing to receive his £435,000 annual salary also is a great stick for the BBC’s detractors to beat it with.

There are undoubtedly complicated HR and personnel issues at play. However, one way or another, the issues surrounding the former star presenter need to be resolved, and fast.

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