Ofcom is probing Emily Maitlis' Dominic Cummings Newsnight rant

Ofcom is probing Emily Maitlis’ Dominic Cummings Newsnight rant following a complaint after BBC decided to take ‘no further action’ despite ruling she DID breach impartiality guidelines

  • Emily Maitlis slammed Dominic Cummings in a Newsnight opening monologue
  • The BBC reportedly received more than 24,000 complaints over presenter’s rant
  • Editorial Complaints Unit ruled she breached impartiality rules but would not take any further action
  • Regulator Ofcom is now looking into a complaint about the BBC’s handling

The broadcasting watchdog Ofcom is officially looking into the row over Emily Maitlis’ bruising monologue about Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown rules.

The presenter used her opening address on an episode of Newsnight to state Mr Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, had ‘broken the rules’ and ‘the country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot’. 

In September, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) said the loaded rant did breach strict rules governing impartiality and accuracy.

However, following the verdict the ECU said the matter was closed and that it would not be taking any further action for the breach.

Ofcom has now received a complaint from an individual not satisfied with the BBC process

Dame Melanie Dawes, its chief executive, told MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee the complaint was with the regulator and was ‘so subject to our decision making at the moment’. 

Following the broadcast, bosses were quick to accept the programme had strayed beyond impartiality after viewers bombarded the BBC with complaints. 

The BBC earlier this year said: ‘We believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality’.

Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis used her opening address on an episode of Newsnight to state Mr Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, had ‘broken the rules’ and ‘the country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot’

In her introduction, Maitlis said Mr Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, had ‘broken the rules’ and ‘the country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot’.

‘Tonight, we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of No 10…’

The BBC reportedly received more than 24,000 complaints over presenter’s rant, and she was not included in the next episode’s line up. 

The ECU accepted that the programme was entitled to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and ask tough questions on behalf of viewers.

The Newsnight coverage centred on a trip by Mr Cummings from London to his family home in Durham during the first lockdown. 

The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) said the loaded rant did breach strict rules governing impartiality and accuracy. However, the ECU said they considered the matter closed

But it said that at the time of the broadcast it had not been established by an independent arbiter that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, which undermined the veracity of Maitlis’ scathing remarks. 

Mr Cummings insisted he acted ‘reasonably and legally’.

MPs also complained, at the committee hearing into public service broadcasting, that Ofcom is ‘completely powerless’ over streaming giant Netflix despite its ‘increasingly important role’.

Committee chairman Julian Knight said that ‘effectively Netflix (which is based in the Netherlands) is not regulated at all within the UK and you have to hope they will be good citizens.’

Dame Melanie Dawes (pictured), Ofcom’s chief executive, told MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that an individual’s complaint was with the regulator and was ‘so subject to our decision making at the moment’

He accused the streaming giant of using ‘Holland as almost a flag of convenience in order to escape the type of regulations we have within the UK’.

The Ofcom chief also said she wanted the BBC to improve the way it covered trans issues, so that it did not cause offence.

‘It’s something we’ve been talking to (campaigning organisation) Stonewall about,’ she said.

‘Can broadcasters (bring balance) in an appropriate way?…’

She denied she wanted to push out views from people like JK Rowling, saying: ‘It’s about making sure we give the right information to our broadcasters so they can steer their way through the debate without causing offence or bringing inappropriate questions to the table’.

Emily Maitlis’ decade of BBC controversies 

April 2020 

Ms Maitlis used Newsnight to hit out at claims that coronavirus is a ‘great leveller’ for society as she said the poorest Britons are less likely to survive the pandemic.

She claimed on BBC Two that those most at risk of catching the infection are in low-paid jobs such as bus drivers, nurses and care home workers.

Matt Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute claimed her comments breached impartiality guidelines, but her speech received widespread praise online. 

September 2019 

BBC bosses found against Emily Maitlis after an internal investigation when viewers complained she was ‘sneering and bullying’ towards journalist Rod Liddle during a Brexit debate.

The executive complaints unit at the BBC determined that Ms Maitlis had been too ‘persistent and personal’ during the late night discussion on BBC2 on July 15.

The incident, where she told Mr Liddle to ‘get a grip’ and said his columns contained ‘casual racism’ left her open to claims she had ‘failed to be even-handed’, their report said. 

Viewers claimed the presenter’s attitude towards Liddle was systemic of the way the BBC has portrayed Leave voters.

August 2019 

Emily Maitlis said the BBC’s move to uphold a complaint against Naga Munchetty for calling out Donald Trump over racism looked ‘massively out of touch’.

She gave her full support to Munchetty, who had condemned the President’s call for four Democratic congresswomen to go back to their own countries. 

June 2019

The BBC criticised its own broadcaster Ms Maitlis about her performance in last week’s Conservative leadership debate.

A statement appeared on the BBC website saying that the Newsnight presenter was ‘not to everyone’s taste’. But the BBC quickly removed the comment, insisting it was a mistake. 

The errant comment was a response to complaints about Maitlis’s performance in last week’s Conservative leadership debate.

Critics said the show turned into ‘an hour of men shouting inanely over each other’, while another said the BBC’s bar-stool format made the Tory MPs look like ‘a bunch of braying morons’.

April 2019

The broadcaster is named as Newsnight’s new lead presenter and said: ‘I don’t have to be liked’.

March 2019

She was caught on camera visibly losing her patience with Labour MP Barry Gardiner on Newsnight. The host is seen rolling her eyes and shuffling her papers as he spoke.

July 2017

She urges male colleagues to join the gender pay gap fight – as women staff at the Corporation went into open revolt. 

January 2016 

Ms Maitlis revealed she was once told by a boss at the Corporation she would have to appear on Strictly Come Dancing if she wanted to progress. She previously claimed it is harder for a woman to be taken seriously and be successful at the BBC 

August 2011

The newscaster was spotted wearing a charity wristband in support of the Forces charity Help for Heroes while presenting the news – despite there being a ban on presenters wearing such accessories.

July 2011

Dr David Starkey called her a ‘disgrace’  after he claimed that Britain had undergone a cultural shift and ‘the whites have become black’ during an interview with Ms Maitlis.

More than 700 people complained to the BBC and a further 103 contacted Ofcom claiming that the comments breached guidelines on racial offence. 

November 2009 

Ms Maitlis is named among a host of the BBC’s highest-paid presenters classing themselves as freelancers to avoid paying 50 per cent  income tax.

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