HUW EDWARDS HAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESTART HIS CAREER – IF HE LEAVES THE BBC

BBC insiders have claimed that there is “no way back” for 62-year-old presenter Huw Edwards, who has reportedly been shown the results of the corporation’s internal fact-finding investigation. The inquiry was established following allegations made in July that Edwards had paid a 17-year-old for explicit images.

The teenager’s mother claimed that the money Edwards paid out was used to fund a crack cocaine habit. However, that was later disputed by the young person involved, who called it “rubbish”. 

More allegations were then made about Edwards’ behaviour. It was alleged that he had sent “inappropriate” messages to three members of staff, one of whom stated that the messages made them feel “uncomfortable”. Edwards also broke lockdown rules to visit someone he met on a dating site.

The exact findings of the inquiry are yet to be made public. The question is how serious they are, and whether Edwards can find a way back into public life.

Edwards was the BBC’s highest-paid journalist, on an annual salary of £435,000, and had become the respected face of the corporation. He announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II and guided viewers through her funeral. He had been expected to anchor next year’s general election – but that now looks impossible.

So, what path, if any, might Edwards take next? 

Public relations and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski says that the most important consideration is the presenter’s mental health. “When you talk about possible career paths, first of all, it’s about how he can get back to a place, in his own head, where he can move forward. I suspect that if the report is not in his favour, then it will bring him to a dark place again.”

Borkowski suggests that Edwards will also be looking for “foul weather friends” to support him once he loses the backing of the BBC. “When you’ve been nurtured by the corporation, worked through various departments, become the anchor of the biggest events over the past five years – notably the late Queen’s death – and you’ve had that power and attention, it’s a shock to suddenly be in this position.”

Borkowski praises Edwards’ wife, Vicky Flind, who “filled the news vacuum created by anonymous accusations and took control of the story”. It was Flind who named Edwards as the accused BBC figure, and who also told the world that he was receiving in-patient hospital care for serious mental health issues

That, notes Borkowski, helped Edwards to “regain some traction in terms of his image”. His subsequent disappearing act helped too. “The fact you haven’t had a single picture to keep his name in the conversation – like those sad pictures of the person sitting with friends in coffee bars, or emerging from rehab – that’s a good move. Whoever’s looking after him, I think Andy Coulson [the former News of the World editor, who is advising the Edwards family], is doing the right job.

“We’ve since seen other people being skewered, like Russell Brand. He took the heat off Huw Edwards, just like Huw took the heat off Phillip Schofield.”

But in Borkowski’s opinion, Edwards will soon need to decide whether he wants to disappear from public view forever, or take his career in a new direction. For the former to work, he’ll need to be candid with the public.

“He still hasn’t talked about his personal demons. The story is out there. But if he gives that first interview – which there will be huge demand for – and if he talks about his mental health struggles, that starts his journey back. That is, if he delivers it the right way: the public are very forgiving if it’s real and authentic.”

In fact, Borkowski thinks Edwards could be a valuable advocate, speaking out on an important topic. “He has so much to offer, and so much guidance to give, in terms of what it’s like to be in that place where he couldn’t be who he truly is because of the pressures of that public role. He could talk honestly about a relatable situation; many people are imprisoned by their own demons. But he had the scrutiny of the entire nation for two weeks – that’s unique.”

Of course, that would only work if Edwards is in a healthy enough place to withstand even more scrutiny by publicly speaking about the most difficult time in his life and a crisis in his career.

A book might be a safer option, should Edwards strike a favourable deal with a publisher (and surely there would be a big advance on offer for him to tell his full, frank story). Even then, though, Edwards would need to be prepared for robust questioning while on the promotional trail.

One thing is sure, says Borkowski: “Coming back as a mainstream broadcaster is not an option for him.” Nor is the corporation likely to come to his aid. “The BBC is a slow-moving organisation racked with its own demons. It’ll be protecting its own reputation – and, unfortunately, it does tend to throw people under the bus.”

But, Borkowski continues, “there are myriad channels where he might go, like the streamers. You have more ability now to create your own content or choose a new medium that works for you, like a podcast.”

Edwards could potentially pivot to another field – from news to one of his areas of passion, like Welsh culture or history, or something related to his Christian faith. He’s already presented the documentary Bread of Heaven, about religion in Wales, and the historical series The Story of Wales.

Edwards is also a keen amateur organist, sometimes playing at north London’s Jewin Welsh Presbyterian Chapel, and he has numerous connections with musical organisations: he was the honorary president of the Gwalia Male Choir from 2005 to 2016, was awarded a fellowship of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in 2019, and became a vice-president of The Bach Choir in 2022. He narrated the BBC Four documentary Organ Stops in 2022.

That is surely a less contentious area for his eventual return to broadcasting – should he wish to make a comeback. He could, for example, interview great musical figures on a podcast, or champion Welsh arts organisations in a series for Netflix or Apple TV+. If Wrexham AFC can become international stars, anything is possible.

However, that might depend on the public response to the inquiry’s findings, and whether arts organisations and/or streaming services are happy to partner with him.

We probably won’t see Edwards following the likes of Matt Hancock and Nigel Farage onto I’m A Celebrity. His key asset is his gravitas – which wouldn’t survive chomping on kangaroo anus in the jungle.

But it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he would win the public’s hearts via a stint of genial waltzing on Strictly Come Dancing, or appearing on a lower profile reality show like, say, the Stand Up To Cancer version of Bake Off.

Or might Edwards find a fresh new audience in Millennials or Gen Z if he does become outspoken about mental health and the pressures of celebrity? That sounds closer to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle territory.

Borkowski is sceptical. “Those generations have got their own heroes already,” he points out. “Actually, there’s a huge amount of people who are slightly older and who don’t have the same ability to express themselves for whatever reason. That’s probably more who he could represent.”

Edwards parting ways with the BBC might even be a career opportunity, if he plays his cards right. Borkowski draws comparisons with sports pundits Andy Gray and Richard Keys, who left Sky Sports after being criticised for sexist behaviour, but who now work for Al Jazeera Qatar’s beIN Sports – “and arguably get a bigger audience than when they were on Sky”.

Likewise, Edwards might yet turn this to his advantage, predicts Borkowski. “He still has tremendous ability as a communicator and a great presence.” This could be the start of a whole new chapter.

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2023-11-28T18:01:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd