Royal Family warned over responding to Huw Edwards allegations - 'Risk public backlash'

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: BBC newsreader Huw Edwards speaks at the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony in Westminster on January 27, 2020 in London, England. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Holocaust memorial day takes place annually on the 27th of January, remembering the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and honoring survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution, and subsequent genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Huw Edwards has been the face of the BBC's coverage of royal events for many years. (Getty Images) (Chris Jackson via Getty Images)

The Royal Family has been warned to be wary of being seen to distance itself from Huw Edwards following recent allegations against the high-profile BBC news presenter.

Edwards has fronted the coverage of major royal events for the BBC for many years, even announcing the death of Queen Elizabeth to the nation on 8 September 2022.

Last weekend, a senior palace aide told the Sunday Times the BBC and Buckingham Palace would need to discuss how to address the issue if any of the recent allegations against Edwards proved true.

"All of those moments are bookmarked in our nation’s history", the aide told The Sunday Times. "Will the BBC now not ever use the footage of Huw announcing Her Majesty’s death?

"When you think about it, that is such a moment in our nation’s history. The BBC will have to think about all of this, and we will too.”

The Sunday Times reported such a situation could cause a potential headache for the palace.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 07:  Queen Elizabeth II meets newsreader Huw Edwards as she opens the new BBC Broadcasting House on June 7, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Huw Edwards with the late Queen Elizabeth when she opened the new BBC broadcasting house in 2013. (Getty Images) (WPA Pool via Getty Images)

However, a PR expert has told Yahoo News UK that, while the public image of Edwards is “deeply connected" to the Royal Family, the connection is not reciprocal.

“The Royal Family is not associated with any particular journalist or anchor.” Edward Coram James, CEO of PR firm Go Up, told Yahoo.

"Journalists and anchors come and go. They report on the royal family, and not the other way around. This allows the royal family to rise above the day-to-day of journalism, and detaches them, in the public imagination, from any one individual from any one TV network.”

Coram James noted that because public sentiment seems at the moment largely supportive of Edwards – who has since been admitted to hospital for mental health issues – it is The Sun that is most likely to face a backlash.

“At present, the controversy looks worse for The Sun than it does either for Edwards or the BBC. In short, the public has largely cemented the view that, if no further accusations of illegality are made, then the matter is a private one to be dealt with by Edwards and his family, and that The Sun’s coverage represents an egregious overstepping into the private life of a much-loved British anchor, and at a time when he is suffering from well documented mental health issues.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 14: Huw Edwards attends the 2023 BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises at The Royal Festival Hall on May 14, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)
Huw Edwards has won several BAFTA awards, including one with his team for their coverage of William and Kate's wedding. (Getty Images) (Joe Maher via Getty Images)

“Broadly speaking, from a PR point of view, the public has rallied around Edwards in support and appears to believe that The Sun went too far in its reporting.”

Coram James also cautioned that if the Royal Family or their aides attempted to distance themselves from the controversy surrounding Edwards in any respect, they would risk a public backlash.

“There is zero PR benefit or upside in the Royal Family taking any action whatsoever on this, including behind-the-scenes distancing action," he said.

“On the flip side, the royals taking any sort of action could be seen as them throwing in their lot with the likes of The Sun, which has, in terms of PR and optics, come out of this whole saga looking very bad indeed.

“They need to stick to their standard playbook, remaining neutral and staying above the fray."

Another PR expert, Rochelle White, echoed Coram James sentiments: "I don't feel that this will have a massive impact," she said. "It could be not seen favourable and also he could tarnish with the same brush as Andrew, which wouldn't be good.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of late Britain's Queen Elizabeth II covered with the Royal Standard of Scotland, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh on September 11, 2022. - Queen Elizabeth II's coffin will travel by road through Scottish towns and villages on Sunday as it begins its final journey from her beloved Scottish retreat of Balmoral. The Queen, who died on September 8, will be taken to the Palace of Holyroodhouse before lying at rest in St Giles' Cathedral, before travelling onwards to London for her funeral.. (Photo by ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The announcement of Queen Elizabeth's death on 8 September 2022 became part of the history books. (Getty Images) (ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS via Getty Images)

"However, I feel that the royal media teams, as well as the BBC, will handle this in a way that won't have a big impact on their reputation."

Edwards was named last week as the BBC presenter accused by The Sun of paying a young person, now aged 20, for sexual images.

The newspaper’s initial report, which was published on 7 July, suggested that this had started when the individual was 17 - a potentially serious criminal offence, leading the BBC to launch an investigation into its handling of a complaint that was initially raised by the parents of the person in May.

William and Kate's wedding was one of the many major events of the Royal Family that Huw Edwards covered. (Getty Images)
William and Kate's wedding was one of the many major events of the Royal Family that Huw Edwards covered. (Getty Images) (Chris Jackson via Getty Images)

The police has since said no criminal act took place.

In 2011, Edwards and his team won a Bafta for Best Coverage of a Live Event for their work covering William and Kate's, now Prince and Princess of Wales, wedding.

He also presented the BBC coverage for Harry and Meghan's wedding in Windsor, in May 2018, as well as the diamond and platinum jubilees of the late Queen Elizabeth in 2012 and 2022 respectively and he also fronted up the coverage of Prince Philip's funeral in 2021.

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