The BBC has drafted in a senior partner from Deloitte to help with its high-profile review into protocols following the Huw Edwards scandal, which Tim Davie revealed should complete in the late Autumn.
Simon Cuerden, who leads the accounting giant’s Fraud, Data and Disputes team, will support BBC Group Chief Operating Officer Leigh Tavaziva and the Board’s Senior Independent Director Nick Serota on the review, which the Director General said will publish its terms of reference later this week but won’t be completed for several months.
Speaking to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee in the past few minutes, Davie said the review will “go through the process in terms of understanding what we do and whether we need to adjust protecols and procedures.”
“I have asked to see what is flagged [throughout] to ensure the consistency during the period we do the review,” he said.
Cuerden is described on the Deloitte website as a “forensic partner for over 20 years,” who has “deep experience of working with special committees drawn from the boards of organisations to oversee reviews and investigations into sensitive incidents and circumstances.”
A separate ‘factfinding investigation’ into the Edwards scandal is taking place simultaneously but Davie said it is “difficult to give a precise time” as to when that review will report back.
“In some ways this is normal for the BBC with allegations with regard to individuals,” added Davie. “You have to go diligently, assess information and there are of course duty of care concerns. My main priority is to be fair, get all the information into the process and act judiciously.”
Davie revealed that he has been in touch with the initial complainant against Edwards and said his team is “appropriately listening and understanding [their] concerns.”
The DG was appearing in front of a committee for the first time since the Edwards scandal, which rocked the media world. After several days during which the nationwide gossip mill reached crescendo, the BBC newsreader was revealed to be the subject of a Sun exposé on a ‘BBC presenter’ who had allegedly paid a young person around £30,000 ($39,200) for indecent images.
After the police said they were not investigating Edwards, Deadline later revealed that BBC News journalists had been examining his conduct prior to The Sun’s story, led by his colleague Victoria Derbyshire.
Speaking to the committee today, Davie said the “history of this industry is such that we should all be concerned and approriately dilligent about the abuse of people in powerful positions.”
“You have a dynamic with presenters and people in power where you need to ensure you are very very clear in expectations on culture and policy,” he added.
Acting BBC Chair Elan Closs Stephens also talked the committee through her role in the scandal so far, stating that she was informed immediately by Davie about The Sun story and met with the Board on both the Saturday and Sunday afternoon after it had broken. She has since spent the week in London, including appearing in front of journalists at last week’s BBC Annual Report briefing, during which time she said today she had “talked through process and made further general observations about the importance of independence” but this had been ignored by reporters. “Not a single paper reported on that – they were too interested in the eye of the storm,” she added.
Stephens added of the scandal: “We had a duty to act with calm and rationality in the face of a lack of rationality and a lack of calm. There were an awful lot of questions that could not be answered and there was huge pressure to disclose the name of someone to whom we had a duty of care and privacy in addition to the family and the young man concerned in this malestrom.”
Stephens went on: “So I was on the one hand seeking to establish the right of the board to oversee what was happennig but at the same time trying my best to make calm, rational decisions on the issue before we all carried on in what could have been very wrong directions.”
Stephens replaced the disgraced Richard Sharp several weeks ago in an acting capacity following Sharp’s resignation, and she will be in post for at most 12 months.