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Monday, Dec 11, 2023

BBC Presenter's Alleged Misconduct and the Ethics of Reporting: A Timeline of Events

BBC Presenter's Alleged Misconduct and the Ethics of Reporting: A Timeline of Events

One week ago, the Sun newspaper published a story that claimed a high-profile BBC presenter had given a young person over £35,000 since they were 17 in return for sordid images.
The story sparked outrage in the media and among readers, with many questioning the accuracy of the report and the ethics of the Sun's reporting.

Over the course of the following six days, the Sun's telling of the story subtly shifted, with the paper placing increasing emphasis on the claim that the young person had received money for explicit images.

The Sun's handling of the story has faced serious scrutiny, particularly in regards to the prominence given to the detail about explicit images.

The media faced a difficult balancing act between reporting on claims of serious wrongdoing and respecting the privacy of those involved.

As a result, many outlets, including the BBC, were cautious in their reporting, avoiding making explicit allegations or revealing the identity of the presenter.

However, the Sun's use of the key phrase "sordid images" in at least seven online articles over the course of three days, hinted at criminality and suggested that the presenter may have committed a criminal offence if the images were sent before the teenager was 18.

This connection was made by other outlets, including the Sunday Times and BBC News, and it fuelled the story.

The Sun began to refer to "contact" between the pair starting when the young person was 17, but did not specify the nature of that contact, in its editorial on Sunday evening.

The publication of a letter from the young person's lawyer to the BBC denying the substance of the Sun's story, and their parents' response, which formed the basis of a story in the following day's paper, may have changed the equation.

The Sun's initial story did not explicitly mention criminality, but if the details within it were correct, then it suggested the presenter had broken the law.

The Sun has said the story was "always squarely in the public interest." Its statement on Wednesday, after Edwards was named by his wife, said its original story did not allege criminality and further added that connection was only made by other outlets.

"From the outset, we have reported a story about two very concerned and frustrated parents The first story about the scandal involving a BBC presenter was published by The Sun newspaper, based on claims made by the presenter's mother.

However, it is unclear whether the newspaper had seen any evidence to support the allegations before publishing the story.

The paper claimed that family members had signed a sworn affidavit, but it is not clear what that means, as an affidavit is typically overseen by a solicitor in legal action.

On Monday, the BBC responded to the young person's denial of the allegations by saying it had seen evidence supporting the family's concerns.

However, the evidence has not been made public, nor has it been seen by the BBC.

The young person's lawyer sent a letter to the BBC on Monday evening, calling the allegations "rubbish" and asserting that nothing inappropriate or unlawful had taken place.

The Metropolitan Police advised the BBC to pause its investigation while they made enquiries.

Meanwhile, the Sun published an interview with the parents who said the BBC were liars and that they had told the BBC about the presenter's contact with the young person.

The BBC has published a timeline of events and its director general, Tim Davie, has said that the situation is being handled "responsibly and judiciously." Two police forces have concluded that there was no evidence of criminality.

South Wales Police, who the young person's parents first approached in April, said the allegation related to "the welfare of an adult," as opposed to a child.

On Wednesday evening, the Metropolitan Police said there was no information to indicate a criminal offence and they would take no further action.

Journalists have been investigating the presenter and further allegations about his behavior have emerged.

One young person claimed they were placed under repeated pressure to meet the presenter after first being contacted anonymously by him on a dating app.

They said they received abusive and menacing messages from Mr. Edwards that left them frightened after they hinted online they might reveal his name.

Separately, the Sun said the presenter broke Covid lockdown rules to meet a 23-year-old who he had contacted on a dating site.

In a development that has raised questions about the behavior of one of the BBC's highest-paid presenters and the abuse of power, three current and former employees have come forward with allegations of inappropriate messages sent by Nicolas Hamilton Edwards.

The allegations have been described as "very serious" but not illegal, and different to those reported by the Sun.

The parents of a young person who had contact with Edwards reportedly approached the BBC after taking their concerns to the corporation.

However, the BBC's response to the complaint has been criticized by some, who question why the corporation did not discuss the allegations with Edwards earlier and give him a chance to respond.

The Sun newspaper reported that it had received allegations of inappropriate behavior from three current and former employees of the BBC, and that the newspaper had passed on the allegations to the BBC's corporate investigations unit.

The BBC has said that the investigations unit tried to contact the parents of the young person once, but did not hear back from them.

The timing of the Sun's report, on the same day that Edwards' wife made a statement about the allegations, has also been criticized.

Sir Craig Oliver, former editor of the BBC News at Ten program, described the corporation's journalists as having "perhaps gone too far" in their desire to be impartial.

The BBC's director general, Mr. Davie, has promised to review how quickly "red flags" are raised internally after such complaints and to "immediately" review how quickly "red flags" are raised internally after such complaints.

The revelations have raised questions about the balance between publishing in the public interest and the right to privacy, and whether the BBC and the Sun could have shown more care and consideration for the individuals involved.

The BBC has not commented on the specific allegations, but has said that it takes any allegations of inappropriate behavior extremely seriously and that it has a duty of care to all parties involved.

The corporation has also said that it will cooperate fully with any investigations that may arise from the allegations.

It remains to be seen how the situation will unfold, but the incident highlights the importance of proper handling of such allegations and the need for organizations to take them seriously and handle them with care.

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