Newsnight’s Cummings coverage broke impartiality rules, BBC says

The BBC has said that an introduction to Newsnight, which discussed the Dominic Cummings lockdown row, "did not meet our standards of due impartiality".

Presenter Emily Maitlis opened Tuesday's show by saying the Prime Minister's chief adviser had "broken the rules" and "the country can see that, and it's shocked the Government cannot".

The BBC said in a statement on Wednesday that staff had been "reminded of the guidelines" around impartiality following the broadcast.

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The Duchess of Cornwall speaks to Jordan Stephens and Emily Maitlis (right) during a reception at Clarence House in London to mark the beginning of the annual Women of the World (WOW) festival.
Emily Maitlis arrives at the 2009 GQ Men of the Year Awards at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London
Emily Maitlis arrives for the British Academy Television Awards, held at the London Palladium, central London, May 20, 2007.
Emily Maitlis attending the 14th BGC Annual Charity Day at Canary Wharf in London, in commemoration of BGC's 658 colleagues and the 61 Eurobrokers employees lost on 9/11. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 11, 2018. See PA story SHOWBIZ Charity. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire
Emily Maitlis in the press room at the GQ Men of the Year Awards 2018 in Association with Hugo Boss held at The Tate Modern in London.
Emily Maitlis attending the photocall for the UK premiere of Spotlight, at the Washington Mayfair Hotel, London.
(left to right) Charlie Webster, Jenni Falconer, Jo Whiley and Emily Maitlis before running the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon at Hyde Park, London.
BBC presenters Emily Maitlis (left) and Sophie Raworth before the start of this year's Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon in Hyde Park, central London this morning.
News presenters Emily Maitlis (left) and Mary Nightingale who were amongst other women in the media at a reception hosted by the Prime Minister David Cameron in 10 Downing St today held to celebrate their achievements.
Emily Maitlis at the Arqiva British Academy Television Awards 2013 at the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Emily Maitlis arriving at the 2011 Glamour Women of the Year Awards in Berkeley Square, London.
Emily Maitlis attends the 10 Year Anniversary performance of Disney's 'The Lion King' at the Lyceum Theatre, London.
Emily Maitlis attending the Piers Morgan Tonight launch party, at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge, west London.
The Duchess of Cornwall speaks to Emily Maitlis (right) during a reception at Clarence House in London to mark the beginning of the annual Women of the World (WOW) festival.
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: Emily Maitlis representing SMA Trust makes trades during BGC Charity Day at One Churchill Place on September 11, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for BGC)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Emily Maitlis attends the new Royal Academy of Arts opening party at Royal Academy of Arts on May 15, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Darren Gerrish/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Emily Maitlis speaks at the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards at Claridge's Hotel on May 9, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Emily Maitlis attends the London Evening Standard Londoner's Diary 100th Birthday Party in partnership with Harvey Nichols at Harvey Nichols on May 25, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20: Emily Maitlis arrives for the UK Premiere of Spotlight at The Washington Mayfair on January 20, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Emily Maitlis addresses students at the Cambridge Union Society on October 5, 2015 in Cambridge, England. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Emily Maitlis addresses students at the Cambridge Union Society on October 5, 2015 in Cambridge, England. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
File photo dated 05/09/18 of Emily Maitlis. Speaking on Good Morning Britain, the Newsnight presenter has voiced her support for Newswatch host and colleague, Samira Ahmed, who is pursuing an equal pay complaint against the BBC.
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In the Newsnight opening, Ms Maitlis said: "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."

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

The statement added: "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."

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan branded the BBC statement "utterly disgraceful", adding that the BBC is "chucking one of its best journalists under the bus for telling the truth".

Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said that the broadcaster had responded rapidly to the incident.

He tweeted: "For the BBC to come out, in such terms, so quickly is really something, no circling of the wagons – issuing what is effectively a written warning."

Emily Maitlis interview

The programme's introduction was criticised by Chris Green, the Conservative MP for Bolton West, who said on Twitter that it "had a clear bias and had nothing to do with the BBC's mission to inform and educate".

He added: "We do not need Newsnight to behave as poor quality entertainment."

Last year, the BBC became embroiled in an impartiality row over on-air comments made by BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty about Donald Trump and racism.

Ms Munchetty was previously 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.

The ruling was later reviewed and reversed by the corporation's director-general Lord Tony Hall.

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