Caroline Dinenage wrote to BBC Acting Chair Elan Closs Stephens yesterday saying the committee is “keen to see that the BBC conducts its two wider reviews in a transparent manner” following the Edwards scandal.
The BBC has launched two reviews since the accusations against Edwards, one of which will be a ‘factfinding’ investigation and the other a more detailed work on protocols. Director General Tim Davie has already said the latter could take several months to report back and a Deloitte partner has been drafted in to help.
“We share your concern to respect the privacy of individuals and to give due regard to the BBC’s duty of care obligations,” said Dinenage’s letter. “As such it is entirely appropriate that the BBC’s fact-finding investigation is a confidential process. However, we are keen to see that the BBC conducts its two wider reviews in a transparent manner.”
The BBC should tell the committee how it intends to make the outcomes of the reviews public, Dinenage added. “It is important that the public are reassured that the BBC is taking appropriate actions to ensure that the `red flagging’ process works effectively,” she wrote.
The Edwards scandal rocked the media world following a Sun story about a ‘BBC presenter’ who had paid a young person with a crack addiction thousands of pounds for sexually explicit images. After several days during which the nationwide gossip mill reached crescendo, Edwards was revealed to be the subject of the exposé and he is currently suffering from severe depression.
After the police said they were not investigating Edwards, Deadline later revealed that BBC News journalists had been examining Edwards’ conduct prior to The Sun’s story, led by his colleague Victoria Derbyshire.
Dinenage’s letter to The Sun Editor Victoria Newton yesterday asked “what was done to verify this specific story and what, if any, reviews or discussions are ongoing about The Sun’s procedures and reporting in this case,” along with whether there are “wider lessons to be learned.”
The Sun had been in hot water over the story when the young person involved revealed, via a lawyer, that they had not been asked for comment and did not believe the allegations to be true.
“Our role is not to challenge individual stories or editorial decisions, but we would be grateful if you could set out the processes by which The Sun verifies any story it chooses to report,” added Dinenage.
She also turned to the Wootton case, which has lit up Twitter over the past week or so since the release of a three-part investigation into his behavior by The Byline Times. The Byline investigation accused Wootton of posing as a fictitious showbiz agent called Martin Branning and offering thousands of pounds to people including former colleagues in exchange for sexual images and videos. Wootton is currently crowdfunding to help pay his legal bills and used his nightly GB News show to say “there are dark forces out to try and take this brilliant channel down,” because, he said, it posed a threat to the establishment.
Wootton used to work for The Sun and Dinengage asked Newton to “set out what investigations are taking place into this matter.” According to The Guardian, both the publishers of The Sun and Daily Mail have been looking into the allegations.
Last week, The Guardian also revealed that Dinenage had hosted a parliamentary drinks party for GB News, the right-leaning network that counts Wootton as host of one of its most-watched shows.