Piers Morgan has lashed out at the BBC following the broadcaster’s reprimanding of Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis over a re-tweet of the former Good Morning Britain’s criticism of the government.
Maitlis, who previously received a slap down after a monologue aimed at Dominic Cummings last year received 24,000 complaints from viewers, has again been seen to break the Beeb’s strict impartiality code for its journalists.
In February, Maitlis shared a tweet from Morgan which hit out at the government and the perceived failings of how it dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
He wrote: ‘If failing to quarantine properly is punishable by 10yrs in prison, what is the punishment for failing to properly protect the country from a pandemic?’
Despite Maitlis deleting the tweet from her timeline 10 minutes later, it had already garnered complaints.
According to BBC social media guidelines, employees should ‘take particular care about maintaining our impartiality on social media’ in personal and professional activities, and that ‘expressions of opinion on social media’ include ‘sharing or liking content’.
The broadcaster upheld the complaint, with the Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) noting in a statement: ‘The ECU noted that the impression of agreeing with material one shares could be created without the element of repetition, and considered this to be a case in point.
‘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 or to draw attention to alternative views.’
It went on: ‘Ms Maitlis deleted the retweet from her account within 10 minutes of its appearance but, in the absence of a public acknowledgement that it had been out of keeping with the BBC’s editorial standards, this did not seem to the ECU sufficient to resolve the issue of complaint.’
It followed Maitlis’ Newsnight monologue in May 2020 about former government aide Cummings’ hugely controversial trip to County Durham from London during the first UK lockdown.
The presenter said PM Boris Johnson’s then-advisor ‘broke the rules,’ as she opened Newsnight: ‘The country can see that and it’s shocked the Government cannot.’
The monologue led to more than 20,000 complaints that she had shown bias, with the BBC later saying in a statement the programme had not met ‘standards of due impartiality’.
Following complaints to Ofcom, the watchdog confirmed it will also not be pursuing any investigation over the Cummings monologue.
A spokesperson said at the time: ‘We consider the programme’s opening monologue could be perceived as Ms Maitlis’s personal view on a matter of major political controversy.
‘But, having assessed the programme as a whole, we also found that a range of different viewpoints were given appropriate weight, including those of the UK government.
‘Given this, and taking into account the BBC’s acceptance under its own complaints processes that it fell short of its editorial guidelines, we won’t be taking further action.’
It added: ‘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.’
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