BBC Unveils “Enhanced” Complaints Process as Review of Huw Edwards Case Finds “Shortcomings”

In July 2023, the BBC commissioned a review of the effectiveness of its non-editorial complaints policies and processes, following a complaint about the alleged behavior of former news anchor Huw Edwards who was later named by his wife as being the one accused of having paid a teenager for sexually explicit photos. On Tuesday, the U.K. public service broadcaster unveiled plans to “enhance” its complaints process after the review found “shortcomings” in its existing system.

The assessment was led by BBC Group chief operating officer Leigh Tavaziva and undertaken by Deloitte, under the direction of the firm’s senior partner Simon Cuerden. Its findings, published on Tuesday, identified “shortcomings” that require enhancements.

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“The initial complaint in this case was not escalated quickly enough to senior management, and we have apologized to the complainant for this,” the public broadcaster emphasized.

“The review has been comprehensive and far-reaching, considering both the processes and systems for non-editorial complaints received into the BBC from external parties and those which are internally generated,” the BBC said. “While Deloitte found evidence of documented policies and procedures, and experienced individuals with the capability to investigate the most serious and complex non-editorial complaints, the review shows a clear need for greater consistency across the BBC in how these complaints are processed.”

The review found that the BBC’s process for non-editorial complaints “would be enhanced by the actions identified in the BBC’s management action plan published today,” the broadcaster said. “Critically, this includes the establishment of a framework of overarching processes and procedures, which is subject to strategic oversight and leadership.”

Said Tavaziva: “Although our existing processes and systems are, on the whole, working effectively, this review shows that we need to join them up better to ensure no matter how a non-editorial complaint comes into the BBC it is escalated swiftly, when needed, and dealt with by the right people. Where the review identifies process improvements we accept those in full, and we are delivering on an action plan with a number of enhancements already in place.”

Enhancements to the non-editorial complaints process that the BBC has already introduced include an escalation mechanism for serious non-editorial complaints “from any route with oversight by a Specialist Case Management Framework (SCMF);” an “executive sponsor” for the SCMF in the form of chief people officer Uzair Qadeer; and “the development of an improved process to select hearing managers, and to pilot new ways to help resolve staff concerns before they become formal complaints (grievances).”

Further improvements now planned by the BBC include: “greater consistency” across teams in how non-editorial complaints are dealt with; better use of technology to manage such complaints and “work to ensure there is a complete picture of all cases across teams dealing with them; and ensuring “sufficient resources” across specialist teams dealing with non-editorial complaints “to manage the workload in a timely manner without impacting on staff welfare.”

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