25 July 2023

MPs write to The Sun over Huw Edwards coverage and Dan Wootton investigation

25 July 2023

The chairwoman of a committee of MPs has written to The Sun over its coverage of allegations against BBC presenter Huw Edwards and requested details of the newspaper’s investigation into its former journalist Dan Wootton.

Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairwoman Dame Caroline Dinenage has also written to the BBC to ask for further information about the reviews the corporation is carrying out into its processes following the claims that veteran broadcaster Edwards paid a young person for sexually explicit photos.

Earlier this month, The Sun was the first to report the allegations against the then-unnamed presenter, who was later identified as Edwards by his wife.

Dame Caroline’s letter to The Sun editor Victoria Newton asked her to explain what had been done to verify the story.

It said: “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, especially those where issues of privacy may be at stake.”

It added: “Given the concerns that have been reported about inaccuracies, changing narratives and lack of engagement with some of the parties involved in the case of Mr Edwards, we would also be interested to understand 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 and any wider lessons to be learned.”

Newton’s response described The Sun as a “responsible media organisation” which has “strict editorial and legal frameworks in place so as to ensure that articles are accurate and lawful”, adding that it took the allegations against Wootton “seriously”.

Referring to the paper’s coverage of the Edwards allegations, she said: “In-depth considerations were made around the privacy and public interest justifications for publishing the story.

“The matter is and remains deeply sensitive and the decision was made not to name any of those involved nor give any detail which may identify them.”

Her letter continued: “At no point have we identified the gender of the young person, which the BBC has done on more than one occasion.”

It added: “The questions raised about our reporting have come in particular from the BBC itself as well as a small group of anti-press campaigners who have sought to misrepresent our reporting or use selective extracts.

“The vulnerability and drug addiction of the young person is also frequently omitted.”

The letter from Dame Caroline also asked Newton to set out what investigations are taking place into allegations made about former Sun journalist Wootton.

Last week, Wootton used his self-titled GB News programme to brand claims that he used a pseudonym and offered colleagues money for sexual material “simply untrue” and denied “criminal allegations”.

Newton’s letter in response said the paper is investigating, adding: “We take these allegations seriously but we are in no position to comment further and indeed we make no commitment to make any further comment depending on the outcome of our investigation.”

The committee of MPs has also written to BBC chairwoman Dame Elan Closs Stephens, saying it believes it is “entirely appropriate” that the corporation’s fact-finding investigation into the claims against Edwards remains a “confidential process” to respect the privacy of the individuals concerned.

However, it asks for BBC’s two wider reviews to be carried out in a “transparent manner”.

The BBC is currently undertaking two pieces of work which will look into the corporation’s protocols and procedures.

The first will examine whether the “red flagging” of non-editorial complaints made to the BBC can “appropriately identify matters that require referring up within the organisation”.

The second review will assess the effectiveness of current BBC policies and processes in light of the specifics of Edwards case.

It is being led by group chief operating officer Leigh Tavaziva and will be overseen by the board’s senior independent director, Sir Nicholas Serota.

A BBC spokesman said: “We have received the letter and will respond to the committee in due course.

“The BBC is committed to carrying out all work connected to these matters with due diligence and due care – and we intend to complete this as swiftly as possible.”

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