Emily Maitlis has been given a slap on the wrist by the BBC for a social media post clearly expressing a political position in breach of the broadcaster’s charter.
The BBC hardly has a reputation for strictly enforcing impartiality on its army of liberal presenters and journalists. However, this is the second time in just over a year the Newsnight presenter has been censured for making her personal feelings all too clear, albeit very lightly.
Like so many media personalities, Maitlis savaged former Number 10 chief aid, Dom Cummings for his trip to Barnard Castle, made shortly after the first lockdown restrictions were put in place.
Following a backlash against her unsolicited monologue – the BBC received 20,000 complaints – Maitlis was taken off the air later that week. On Twitter, the presenter said she had “asked for the night off”.
However, in September, the BBC’s editorial complaints unit ruled Maitlis had not breached impartiality rules. Ofcom launched an investigation in December. In March, the watchdog concluded she had not broken any rules.
By that point Maitlis had already made her most second transgression, reposting a rant (see below) on social media by Piers Morgan put up in February.
She deleted the tweet within ten minutes, but the action did not go unnoticed.
In a statement, the editorial complaints unit said: “The retweeted material was clearly controversial, implying sharp criticism of the government and there was nothing in the surrounding context to make clear that Ms Maitlis was not endorsing it.”
It is not clear, however, what punishment is being dished out, if any.
This time last year, the BBC was led by Tony Hall, who is synonymous with the broadcaster’s liberal slide. Tim Davie took over as director-general in September 2020. Upon his arrival, the former business executive was heralded by conservative pundits. He immediately threatened to fire top stars who breach impartiality rules.
And in a major speech, Davie warned: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.”
However, there have not been any high profile sackings from the increasingly under-fire broadcaster.
In April, BBC presenter Samira Ahmed made comments in a podcast in which she confessed to being “haunted” by the phenomenal rise of UKIP under Nigel Farage. Straining credulity, Ahmed told listeners she felt culpable in giving the party’s former leader so much airtime. She is still working at the BBC.
Responding to Maitlis’s latest expression of personal views, campaign group, Defund the BBC slammed the broadcaster for letting her get away with it again.
“Emily Maitlis is incapable of maintaining impartiality and yet she goes unpunished time and time again,” the group posted on social media.
“This is a breach of the BBC’s charter obligations. You don’t have to pay for this. Switch to on-demand and do your bit to #DefundTheBBC by legally cancelling your TV licence.”