Staff at The Sun described the atmosphere in its newsroom as “full on” as the paper faced questions over the allegations regarding the previously unnamed BBC reporter, before Huw Edwards’ wife revealed his identity on Wednesday.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned title has been locked in a battle with the BBC since first reporting last Friday allegations that a well-known figure had paid up to £35,000 for explicit photos of a young person.
Speaking to i before Edwards was named, one senior figure said: “It’s been so full on. Like nothing I’ve seen before. Proper old school newsroom fervour.”
The Sun had appeared to be on the back foot when BBC News reported on Monday that the young person, speaking through their lawyer, had called the initial story “rubbish” and had conveyed that to the paper before publication.
The paper has since changed the language about its original claim, stating that contact between the presenter and the youngster began when they were 17 – however it is not claimed that payment for the photos began when they were 17. It can be a criminal offence to exchange explicit images if a person is under 18.
The Metropolitan Police said on Wednesday no criminal offence had been committed.
The Sun, which says it has sworn affidavits from the young person’s mother and stepfather, as well as evidence to back up its story, hit back with further claims.
On Tuesday, it reported an allegation that the presenter travelled during lockdown for an indoor meeting with a young person he had met on dating app.
One Sun insider told i: “It’s been a little edgy but largely calm. We’ve been told to be careful and not rush stuff online. But no-one is going to come out of this looking good.”
Another source said: “This wasn’t about an allegation of criminality. The Sun has reported that the step-father approached the police who specifically said the activity wasn’t illegal.”
“The story is about two very concerned parents who made a complaint to the BBC about the behaviour of a presenter and the welfare of their child. Their complaint was not properly acted upon by the BBC.”
Critics of The Sun claimed the story would serve to undermine trust in the BBC, reflecting Rupert Murdoch’s long-held hostility towards the licence fee-funded broadcaster.
Steven Barnett, Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster, told the Beeb Watch podcast: “I do not see this as an existential threat to the BBC. I really hope that the one thing we take away from this is, let us remember the commercial agenda of newspapers that have for decades disliked and threatened the BBC and want to see it dismantled.”
The Sun backed its initial story, which claimed that payments from the presenter for photos continued after the family complained to the BBC, and that the cash was being spent on drugs by their child.
A spokesperson said: “We have seen evidence that supports the parents’ concerns. It’s now for the BBC to properly investigate.”