Wales politics

Huw Edwards cannot give evidence to AMs, committee told

Huw Edwards presenting The Wales Report
Image caption Huw Edwards presented The Wales Report from 2012 until June when the programme ended

A senior BBC director has rejected a request for journalist and presenter Huw Edwards to give evidence to AMs.

Culture committee chair Bethan Jenkins said her colleagues wanted to speak to him about axed programme The Wales Report, which he presented.

But director of nations and regions Ken MacQuarrie said it would not be "appropriate" for Mr Edwards to give his personal views.

A BBC source said that Mr Edwards would have been happy to have given evidence.

The source said Mr Edwards - named on Wednesday as one of the BBC's most highly-paid presenters - felt "very strongly" about the provision of serious political programming in Wales.

It is widely known in the BBC that he is extremely concerned about the recent direction taken by BBC Wales in this area, the source added.

The Wales Report, an independently-produced current affairs show made for the BBC by Wales & Co, ran from 2012 until June this year.

It is set to be replaced by a current affairs show produced in-house by BBC Wales. A monthly debate programme has also been commissioned.

On 5 July Ms Jenkins wrote to the BBC making a formal request for Mr Edwards to speak to the assembly's culture committee as part of an inquiry into news journalism in Wales.

She said she had been in discussion with Mr Edwards with a view to him giving "evidence about his experience as a Welsh journalist with a wide perspective of both Welsh and UK journalism and how from his personal experience news journalism in Wales can best be supported".

Image caption Bethan Jenkins said it would have been in the public interest to hear from Mr Edwards

Mr MacQuarrie replied on behalf of the BBC saying: "While we appreciate the importance of the Committee's work, we do not believe it would be appropriate for Huw Edwards to give evidence on the matters you have indicated.

"The BBC's views on matters of media policy, including journalism, are the responsibility of the corporation's management.

"Huw, as our pre-eminent daily news journalist and presenter, has considerable experience in the area of broadcast journalism but it would not be appropriate for him to present his personal views before a parliamentary or assembly committee."

He added: "I hope you will understand this principle, particularly given the importance of maintaining the editorial independence and impartiality of the BBC's daily news operation."

'Public statements'

Ms Jenkins, a Plaid Cymru AM for the South Wales West region, said: "We want to ensure that our committee work is relevant and reflects the thoughts of those at the BBC - not only the top bosses."

"We did intend to ask him questions about The Wales Report," she said, "as Huw himself has made public statements about it not being commissioned again."

She added that she thought "it would be within the public interest to hear from him in this regard".

Mr Edwards had tweeted on the day of the last episode of the programme that the BBC had "dropped" the show after inviting tenders for a brand new programme.

BBC Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies, when asked by the culture committee in June why The Wales Report was not recommissioned, said that every two or three years "we invite a range of suppliers to put ideas on the table in terms of weekly current affairs".

"That's exactly the process that we've just been through," he said.

"On this occasion, Wales & Co, who are the producers of The Wales Report, decided not to bid for that," he said.

A BBC spokeswoman referred to Mr MacQuarrie's letter when asked for comment.

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