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Home » AMANDA PLATELL: When Thousands Are Being Hounded Over Their Licence Fee, Can It Be Right That Huw Edwards Is STILL Taking His £439,000 Salary From The BBC?

AMANDA PLATELL: When Thousands Are Being Hounded Over Their Licence Fee, Can It Be Right That Huw Edwards Is STILL Taking His £439,000 Salary From The BBC?

It has been almost a year since the BBC’s lead anchor Huw Edwards, the man who was the most trusted face of the Corporation and its highest-paid news presenter, was taken off air after the nude-photo scandal.

He was suspended on full pay after an allegation in the Sun newspaper that he had paid a younger man £35,000 over a period of three years for explicit images, although there was no allegation of criminality.

The moment he was taken off air, Edwards suffered what was termed a ‘serious episode’ and admitted to hospital for the sake of his mental health. He has not been seen or heard since and has not been well enough to be questioned in an official BBC investigation into his behaviour.

Well, Huw is a married dad of five kids as well as a self-proclaimed devout Christian. What man in a similar position wouldn’t have a breakdown after allegations of such behaviour became public? Let alone a man revered as the public face of the BBC.

But the fact is, he is still raking in up to £439,000 almost a year on. And all of it is paid by us! Yes, we licence-fee payers are footing the bill for his near half-a-million salary when he hasn’t worked for months, and when insiders say he is unlikely to appear on Auntie’s screens in the near future, if ever again.

The BBC’s lead anchor Huw Edwards has not been seen or heard since he was admitted to hospital for the sake of his mental health

On top of this, we discovered that he’s still on the payroll in the very week our TV licences went up a tenner, and at a time when the number of people being fined for not paying their licence fee has soared, especially among the elderly.

Nearly 1,000 folk, most of them women pensioners, are prosecuted every week and face up to a £1,000 fine.

Rebecca Ryan, campaign director for the lobby group Defund The BBC, has described the continuing payments to Huw Edwards as ‘an absolute insult’ when so many are daily being prosecuted by the BBC over the licence fee.

A number of people within the BBC are also reported to be deeply unhappy that Edwards is still pocketing the money. News colleagues understandably resent the fact that his salary is not being used to hire someone else to ease their workload or, better still, bump up their own pay packets which are, inevitably, far smaller than that of the feted news presenter.

A fellow BBC presenter, who wished not to be named, described the continued payments to Edwards during a period when the Corporation is savagely cutting costs as nothing short of ‘immoral’ — a view with which many seem to concur.

Of course, any organisation has a legal duty of care to its employees, and staff accused of wrongdoing have a right to be heard. But how long can this go on?

Some accuse Edwards of playing the mental-health card, in the same way ITV’s former This Morning presenter, Phillip Schofield, was alleged to be doing after his own sex scandal was exposed.

It was in December last year that the findings of the investigation into the working environment at This Morning were published, following Schofield’s admission earlier that year that he had embarked on an ‘unwise but not illegal affair’ with a younger male colleague. The report, by Jane Mulcahy KC, revealed that Schofield had ‘reluctantly declined’ his invitation to be interviewed for the investigation.

Since we do not know the truth about Edwards’s condition we should not pass judgment on the reasons behind his failure to help with the Beeb’s investigation into this unsavoury affair.

A BBC spokesman, meanwhile, has insisted they will not ‘provide a running commentary on what is an internal employment process’.

So, it’s the perfect Catch-22 situation. Due to his mental health Huw can’t be sacked as it could contravene the BBC’s duty of care to its employees, and would not be right anyway without a proper investigation into his behaviour. Yet nearly a year later, he’s too ill to assist with that investigation. And, in the meantime, he’s still coining it.

All jolly good in legal terms, but aren’t we forgetting something? What about the BBC’s duty of care to us licence-fee payers? We pay Auntie’s wages — surely we have a right to be treated fairly, too?

I also feel sorry for Edwards’s poor wife Vicky Flind and their five children. It was Vicky who ended the horrible guessing game when rumours abounded about who the ‘sex-scandal Beeb presenter’ was, naming her husband and saying he was being treated in hospital for ‘serious mental-health issues’.

Licence-fee payers are footing the bill for Huw Edwards’s near half-a-million salary when insiders say he is unlikely to appear on Auntie’s screens in the near future

But it does make you wonder. If he was mentally unwell, how was it that during the three-year period of the alleged indiscretions he was fit enough to present the Ten O’Clock News and even lead the BBC’s coverage of the Queen’s funeral? Or did his breakdown happen overnight?

If Edwards was suffering from mental-health problems before the sex scandal, why didn’t he take time off to recover, as fellow presenters Nick Robinson did due to lung cancer, and Andrew Marr due to a stroke? Both men were determined to return to their jobs, and such was that determination that they both later admitted they’d probably come back too soon.

If this sorry mess is not sorted out before the Corporation’s annual report this summer, which provides details of its highest earners, it could cause not just embarrassment but also long-term reputational damage for the BBC.

We all know friends and family who have suffered serious mental-health issues. We know what pain and trauma it can bring, and we can but hope Edwards recovers.

But if he had a shred of decency, surely he would understand that it is nothing short of indecent that he is still pocketing his salary?

It would, of course, be a sacrifice to forgo that. This is a man who has long enjoyed his huge earning power. Back in 2019, it was revealed that on top of the annual £495,000 he then took home from BBC licence-fee funds, he had earned £400,000 in speaking fees in five years.

Of course, that world is closed to him now. But there are many — including the BBC’s former royal correspondent Michael Cole — who are asking how Edwards can possibly continue taking his salary and square it with his conscience.

As public opprobrium mounts, I hope he does the right thing and resigns from the BBC.