Ofcom warns BBC over on-air staff rants

The UK’s media regulator Ofcom has warned the BBC that introductions to news programmes must not “inadvertently give the impression of setting out personal opinions or views” in a ruling on Emily Maitlis’ controversial Newsnight opening on Dominic Cummings.

The broadcaster has already ruled that the Maitlis monologue fell short of their editorial standards, with the firm’s head of news last year admitting it belonged “more on the op-ed page in a newspaper” than on “an impartial broadcast programme”.

A statement from the BBC also accepted that the on-air monologue “risked giving the perception that the BBC was taking sides and voicing an opinion on a controversial matter”.

Their response followed nearly 24,000 complaints about the piece, which concerned Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings’ March journey to County Durham at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The BBC’s prior acknowledgement of the issue and the presentation of other views within the main body of the programme led the regulator to take no further action, but their ruling did include a warning for the national broadcaster.

“We have, however, reminded the BBC that when preparing programme introductions in news programmes, to capture viewers’ attention – particularly in matters of major political controversy – presenters should ensure that they do not inadvertently give the impression of setting out personal opinions or views.”

Accusations of bias have long plagued the BBC, with a top Tory MP recently complaining that the corporation produces news output simply “to appeal to a narrow band of north London metropolitan virtue signalling politically correct lefties” while another has opined that since the 2016 EU referendum, “every time you turned on the BBC it was Brexit-bashing, Euro-bleating drivel, which called its impartiality into question.”

And a new poll published this weekend also highlighted growing public concern about the direction of the Beeb, with more than one in three saying it was “too woke” while a majority of Brits slammed the telly tax as bad value for money.