BBC Considers Replacing Huw Edwards On Election Night Show As Presenter Remains Suspended

EXCLUSIVE: The BBC is actively weighing up whether it should replace Huw Edwards as the anchor of its flagship election night show amid continued uncertainty over the presenter’s future.

Edwards has been suspended since July as the BBC investigates his conduct following allegations in The Sun newspaper that he paid a young person for sexually explicit images.

Deadline understands that the BBC is in the early stages of planning for a significant UK general election, which could usher in a new government after 13 years of Conservative rule.

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The election is expected to take place next year, though Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could call an early vote, meaning senior BBC executives are giving thought to who should anchor its output.

Edwards, who earns up to £440,000 ($550,000), presented 2019’s election night coverage and signed a new deal with the BBC earlier this year which would have guaranteed his place as master of ceremony in 2024.

But there is a widely-held view at the BBC that it will be difficult to restore Edwards given the allegations against him, including questions over some of his interactions with junior colleagues.

Election night takes months of planning and there is a feeling that it would be wise to consider other options, even if Edwards has not been fully ruled out.

“It’d be a bit odd if we hadn’t thought about the election by now — and whether we like it or not, Huw is medically unfit to work,” said a senior BBC source.

Election Night Contenders

Senior presenters are yet to be told if they are under consideration, but speculation is already mounting internally as to who might be the best candidate to host the all-night output.

A person familiar with the BBC’s thinking said there was not an obvious successor to Edwards and the corporation was “struggling to know who to fill it with.”

Laura Kuenssberg is seen as the leading contender among colleagues. BBC News’ former political editor now hosts Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, the corporation’s flagship weekend politics show.

She has many admirers at the BBC and beyond, but the broadcaster has been forced to defend her show in recent days amid reports of falling ratings. It said The Sunday Times‘ original report did not reflect online viewing or those watching on the BBC News channel.

A senior BBC journalist said uncertainty over Edwards meant it was a good opportunity for a woman to host the election night show. They agreed that Kuenssberg was well-positioned, but argued that Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce and Sophie Raworth should also be in the frame.

Other potential candidates are said to include Nick Robinson, host of Radio 4’s Today show, and Jeremy Vine, who is known for presiding over virtual reality graphics on election nights. Clive Myrie may also be considered given he has established himself as one of the BBC’s highest-profile news anchors.

David Dimbleby, who before 2019 hosted every election night for the BBC since 1979, was asked last week if he would consider returning.

The 84-year-old told The News Agents podcast: “Don’t tempt me even to think of the question being asked or of answering it. It’s completely out of the question. The BBC’s got to find somebody new.”

It is not clear when the BBC will conclude its internal probe into Edwards after police said he had no criminal case to answer regarding the allegations he paid a young person for sexual images.

Edwards was not named in The Sun‘s initial reports, sparking a five-day media frenzy that ended with his wife, Vicky Flind, identifying him and revealing that he was being treated for mental health issues.

Two months on, little is known about Edwards’ wellbeing or whether he plans to take legal action against The Sun or the BBC, which some believe is a possibility if he loses his job over the scandal.

Edwards has a reputation for defending himself robustly and few think he will go quietly should he make a good recovery from his mental health issues. London law firm Harbottle & Lewis was fielding press inquiries for Edwards in July.

Flind herself is a respected news producer. Sources at ITV said she was expected to return to work this month as the editor of Peston, the Robert Peston-fronted politics show.

The BBC declined to comment.

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