Emily Maitlis introducing Newsnight
(Image: BBC)

Emily Maitlis’ Newsnight opener on Dominic Cummings breached BBC’s 'impartiality guidelines'

The Newsnight episode began with a discussion on the Dominic Cummings row after his movements during April's lockdown were revealed


The BBC has said that its Newsnight introduction which discussed the Dominic Cummings controversy 'did not meet standards of due impartiality'.

Journalist Emily Maitlis began the Tuesday evening episode by saying that the Prime Minister's senior advisor had “broken the rules” and “the country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot”.

While Emily's speech has been praised online by some Newsnight watchers, the broadcaster announced in a statement on Wednesday that staff have since been “reminded of the guidelines” around impartiality.

In the Newsnight opening, Ms Maitlis continued: “The longer ministers and the Prime Minister tell us he worked within [the rules], the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.

“He was the man, remember, who always got the public mood, who tagged the lazy label of elite on those who disagreed.

“He should understand that public mood now – one of fury, contempt and anguish.”
The Newsnight episode in question largely focused on Dominic Cummings
(Image: BBC)

She added: "He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume they can now flout them."

In its response to the broadcast, the BBC said it must “uphold the highest standards of due impartiality in its news output”.

The statement said: “We’ve reviewed the entirety of last night’s Newsnight, including the opening section, and while we believe the programme contained fair, reasonable and rigorous journalism, we feel that we should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine, with all the accompanying evidence, in the rest of the programme.

“As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality.”

The Newsnight episode in question largely focused on Dominic Cummings who drove 260 miles from London to Durham during April’s lockdown.

In a televised press conference with the media on Bank Holiday Monday, Mr Cummings took the opportunity to explain that he embarked on the journey north over childcare concerns in case he and his wife became incapacitated by coronavirus.

And he also admitted that he drove to Barnard Castle in Teesside with his four-year-old son and wife on her birthday to test his vision before driving back to the capital. 

The BBC has been involved in a similar row over impartiality last year over comments made by BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty about Donald Trump and racism.

Ms Munchetty was judged to have breached BBC editorial guidelines when she discussed remarks made by Mr Trump after he told female Democrats to “go back” to their own countries, however the ruling was later reviewed and reversed by the corporation’s director-general Lord Tony Hall.