BBC appoint former head of global news to review impartiality policy 

BBC appoint former head of global news to review impartiality policy online in wake of Emily Maitlis rant on Dominic Cummings

  • BBC has appointed Richard Sambrook to review impartiality on social media
  • He will assess clips and other BBC content posted online to see if it is impartial
  • Comes after Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis was censured for Dominic Cummings rant
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

A top former BBC executive has been appointed to review how the corporation maintains impartiality on social media, after several recent cases of journalists being accused of sharing their own opinions. 

Richard Sambrook, currently director of journalism at Cardiff University and a former director of global news, will be tasked with assessing whether the BBC’s social media accounts are going against its impartiality policy. 

It comes after Newsnight host Emily Maitlis was censured by BBC bosses for her monologue criticising Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson for the former’s alleged breach of coronavirus lockdown.   

Other BBC hosts, including Huw Edwards, Andrew Neil and Gary Lineker have come under fire for tweets in the past, as has political editor Laura Kuenssberg. 

Richard Sambrook, a former director of global news, will be tasked with assessing whether the BBC's social media accounts are going against its impartiality policy

Richard Sambrook, a former director of global news, will be tasked with assessing whether the BBC’s social media accounts are going against its impartiality policy

Professor Sambrook, who spent 30 years at BBC News, is now expected to analyse whether the BBC’s use of social media applies to its impartiality promise. 

He will also look at whether edited clips from BBC shows, including Question Time, are presented in a way that breaches the policy. 

Some people at the BBC fear a need to create ‘viral and shareable’ content has led to the undermining of the corporation’s reputation. 

In the past, Fran Unsworth, the director of news, has repeatedly urged staff to restrain use of Twitter.  

Ofcom yesterday revealed that Emily Maitlis’ Newsnight monologue about Dominic Cummings and the ‘blind loyalty’ of his boss Boris Johnson sparked 247 complaints – but the BBC may have had thousands more.

The BBC is claimed to have had ten times as many complaints from viewers than the UK’s broadcasting regulator but is refusing to release any figures for up to a fortnight.

The Guido Fawkes blog has claimed the corporation has received 18,158 complaints in 24 hours and the figure is ‘still going up’, although that number could also include complaints sent in by Ms Maitlis’ supporters who have rushed to slam the bosses who censured her.    

Ofcom yesterday revealed that Emily Maitlis' Newsnight monologue about Dominic Cummings and the 'blind loyalty' of his boss Boris Johnson sparked 247 complaints

Ofcom yesterday revealed that Emily Maitlis’ Newsnight monologue about Dominic Cummings and the ‘blind loyalty’ of his boss Boris Johnson sparked 247 complaints

Laura Kuenssberg has also previously come under fire for tweets that she has posted online

Laura Kuenssberg has also previously come under fire for tweets that she has posted online

During last year’s election campaign Laura Kuenssberg came under fire and was forced to apologise after tweeting that a Labour activist had assaulted a Conservative staffer, only for a video to reveal it was an accidental collision.

In 2018, Andrew Neil came under fire for saying that Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist on The Observer, was a ‘mad cat woman’.

Professor Sambrook is now expected to take steps to change the BBC’s approach to social media, which could mean that journalists are asked to spend less time on Twitter. 

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