Explained: Why BBC Reporters Have Covered The Huw Edwards Allegations

The broadcaster says its journalists "treat the BBC in the same way as any other organisation" – but former star Emily Maitlis suggests it has gone too far.
A screen in BBC Broadcasting house, in central London, displaying presenter Huw Edwards who was named by his wife Vicky Flind as the suspended BBC presenter.
A screen in BBC Broadcasting house, in central London, displaying presenter Huw Edwards who was named by his wife Vicky Flind as the suspended BBC presenter.
James Manning - PA Images via Getty Images

The allegations surrounding Huw Edwards have seen his employer, the BBC, leading the coverage of the story – an optic that might jar with people unfamiliar with the nuances of the news industry. Here’s how it all fits together.

What has happened?

On Wednesday, Edwards was named by his wife as the BBC presenter who has been at the centre of allegations in the past week.

Vicky Flind, the wife of the news reader, issued a statement on his behalf, and said he was was “suffering from serious mental health issues” and is now “receiving in-patient hospital care where he will stay for the foreseeable future” as she asked for privacy for her family.

It came soon after the Metropolitan Police said no criminal offence has been committed by the BBC presenter facing allegations over payments for sexually explicit images.

Seen as the “face” of the BBC, Edwards announced the death of the Queen to the nation in September and has led coverage of the biggest events in Britain since the turn of the century, including elections, royal weddings and the 2012 Olympics.

The broadcaster’s highest paid news presenter has anchored its flagship Ten O’Clock News bulletin for more than two decades. The father-of-five said in a 2021 documentary that depression had left him bedridden for periods over two decades.

“Once well enough to do so, he intends to respond to the stories that have been published,” the statement said, which can be read in full here.

Who has been reporting the story?

The Sun newspaper first reported that an undisclosed member of the BBC’s on-air presenting team had been accused of paying a then-17-year-old to pose for sexually explicit photos on Friday.

According to the newspaper, the family complained to the broadcaster in May, but Edwards was not immediately taken off air.

On Sunday, the presenter was then confirmed to have been suspended by the corporation due to the allegation.

The following day, the BBC reported on a letter from the young person in question’s legal team, claiming that The Sun’s allegations are “rubbish” and that “nothing inappropriate or unlawful has taken place between our client and the BBC personality”.

The Sun also reported that the presenter had broken lockdown restrictions to meet up with a young person they had made contact with on a dating site.

What has the BBC reported?

The BBC’s news division has also made public further allegations against Edwards.

In a BBC News investigation published on Tuesday, a young person who did not work at the BBC said they had felt “threatened” by messages sent by the presenter, who at that stage had not been named as Edwards.

Then on Wednesday’s edition of Newsnight, the corporation’s flagship current affairs programme, the BBC reported new claims from one current and one former BBC worker, who said they had received “inappropriate messages” from Edwards, “some late at night and signed off with kisses”. This was hours after Edwards was named as the man at the centre of the allegations.

It was reported on Thursday that Newsnight was examining Edwards’ conduct prior to allegations being published in The Sun newspaper last Friday.

So what’s the principle?

The BBC reporting on the BBC might seem confusing to anyone outside the news industry. But the publicly-funded national broadcaster has a commitment to holding itself to the same standards it holds others organisations, and has a clear division between its “news” and “corporate” practices.

Even before Edwards was named, the BBC’s reporters were scrutinising senior bosses over their handling of the story, as witnessed by director-general Tim Davie being interviewed in-depth on Radio 4′s World At One on Tuesday.

The corporation appends a message to each online story where the conflict arises under the headline – How does BBC News cover stories about the BBC?

It states: “With stories like this one, BBC News journalists treat the BBC in the same way as any other organisation the news service reports on.

“And like with any other organisation, BBC News has to ask BBC management or BBC services for responses and contact the BBC press office for official statements.

“Occasionally BBC journalists approach senior managers for unplanned interviews – known as ‘doorsteps’ in the news business. They sometimes also get offered interviews with management …

“And when this happens, they know they will be scrutinised within and outside the BBC over how well they hold their boss to account.”

Have BBC reporters gone too far?

While The Sun announced on Wednesday it was halting its stories on Edwards, the BBC continued to make claims. It led some to suggest the broadcaster has gone too far in trying to prove its independence, especially when Edwards has been hospitalised with mental health issues.

A former BBC star, Emily Maitlis, has suggested the broadcaster’s reporting on the allegations has been “a bit distasteful”.

Maitlis, a former host of Newsnight who quit the BBC last year, said on her The News Agents podcast she supported the division between the BBC’s corporate and editorial sides, but added: “There is something a bit distasteful. If you know this stuff about a colleague, why isn’t your first duty to then go to HR or a senior manager ... or to say I think this is going on ... rather than to turn it into a news story.”

The corporation said BBC News had “reported on itself as it would on any other media organisation – with transparency and independence”.

In a statement, it added: “This has been a complex and fast-moving story involving serious allegations about a high-profile public figure, who was suspended by his employer and was at one point the subject of a police investigation, which is of great interest to our audiences. There was a clear public interest in covering it.”

Deadline has reported that Newsnight reporters have been spoken to by BBC bosses, and told “some staff felt uncomfortable” about being asked questions about Edwards.


What's Hot