Emily Maitlis' Dominic Cummings rant DID breach impartiality

Emily Maitlis’s Dominic Cummings rant on Newsnight placed her ‘closer to one side of the debate’ and DID breach impartiality and accuracy standards, BBC complaints unit rules

  • The Editorial Complaints Unit said there had been a breach of impartiality rules 
  • But it considers the matter closed and will not be handing down reprimands 
  • The BBC faced a barrage of complaints for the May 26 Newsnight episode 

Emily Maitlis’s highly-charged monologue against Dominic Cummings and the Government breached impartiality standards, the BBC’s complaints board has ruled.

The Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) said the loaded rant ‘placed the presenter closer to one side of the debate’ over the behaviour of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser. 

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

The ECU yesterday released its own verdict on the May 26 episode which reaffirmed the position that it broke strict rules governing impartiality and accuracy.  

However, the ECU considers the matter closed and said it will not be taking any further action for the breach. 

Mr Cummings was the target of immense public anger in May after it emerged he had flouted lockdown by travelling to his family farm in County Durham, whereupon he made a second trip to Barnard Castle (pictured giving a pres conference at Downing Street)

It ruled: ‘The definitive and at times critical nature of the language – asserting without qualification that Mr Cummings broke the rules, that ‘the country could see that’ and that the Prime Minister was guilty of ‘blind loyalty’ in refusing to sack him, placed the presenter closer to one side of the debate over his behaviour.’   

Mr Cummings was the target of immense public anger in May after it emerged he had flouted lockdown by travelling to his family farm in County Durham, whereupon he made a second trip to Barnard Castle.

The saga dogged the Government for days and forced the maverick aide to deliver a rare press conference live from Number 10.

He explained he had made the trip North so his son had childcare in case he and his wife were too ill to look after him – and had made a fleeting trip to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Before this press conference, the Prime Minister had resisted calls to sack his top aide, sparking the memorable Newsnight introduction from Maitlis.

She said: ‘Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that and it’s shocked the Government cannot. 

‘The longer ministers and the PM tell us he worked within them, the more angry the response to the scandal is likely to be… Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10.’

Emily Maitlis’s highly-charged monologue against Dominic Cummings and the Government breached impartiality standards, the BBC’s complaints board has ruled

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

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. 

‘In the ECU’s view the opening remarks did not sufficiently acknowledge such uncertainties.’ 

Although some complainants put pressure on the complaints board to discipline the programme, the ECU has drawn a line under the episode and considers its probe closed.

It said: BBC News has conceded that the introduction did not meet the required standards on accuracy or impartiality… Whilst some complainants believe BBC News should have gone further, in the ECU’s view this is sufficient to judge the editorial matter resolved. 

‘This means that although a breach of standards has been identified, no further action is required.’ 

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