Re: Oh, that Emily Maitliss.
Posted by Raskolnikov on August 26, 2022, 7:03 am, in reply to "Oh, that Emily Maitliss."
As predicted, Maitlis is the new brave and fearless fighter for truth at fraudian towers. Well, that and she's shilling her new podcast. Hinsliff jumps on the bandwagon today: |
In a raw and personal analysis, the former Newsnight presenter reveals a broadcaster that has been cowed by government
When Emily Maitlis was growing up, everything stopped for the news. Her father would tune in religiously to the evening bulletins and nobody was allowed to interrupt the pips. The news mattered. For his daughter, it still does. She slid into journalism virtually by accident, but takes it very seriously indeed. As a Newsnight presenter she didn’t just live from headline to headline, but would stand back and reflect on the craft. In her memoir Airhead, in which she analyses old interviews and teases out the often uncomfortable ethical dilemmas raised by questioning a Donald Trump or a Steve Bannon, you occasionally catch a sense of frustration between the lines; something she seemingly wants to say but can’t. This week, having left the BBC to start a new podcast with fellow former BBC stalwart Jon Sopel, she finally let rip.
Populism, she argued in a clearly cathartic appearance before the Edinburgh TV festival, was tying the media up in knots. Politicians were acting in ways that are “deeply and clearly deleterious to basic democratic government”, trampling over constitutional norms, making “things that would once have shocked us now seem commonplace”. But journalists still clung to an old idea of impartiality and balance – that both sides must get an equal say, and let the viewer decide – which is effectively now being weaponised against them. To have a pro-Brexit economist debate a pro-remain one on air was not “balance”, she said, if economists generally were so overwhelmingly against leaving that it took hours of ringing round to find one lone maverick in favour. Broadcasters now reject such false equivalence on topics where scientific consensus is overwhelming, from climate change to vaccination, so why not in economics?
Yet the heart of her lecture was something unmistakably more raw and personal. Two years ago, after a call from Downing Street, her bosses publicly rebuked Maitlis over a Newsnight monologue accusing Dominic Cummings of having broken Covid rules with his lockdown jaunt to Barnard Castle. There was, she claimed, no “due process” to consider whether a script that had been cleared by the programme’s editors was actually defensible. It was almost as if someone wanted to send a “message of reassurance” to No 10.
There’s nothing new about spin doctors ringing up broadcasters or newspaper editors to rail against unflattering coverage. It happened regularly under Blair and Brown, just as it did under Cameron, May and Johnson. But when that furious late night call comes in, what matters to reporters is knowing that – at least so long as your story is right – someone has your back. Once those in power learn that your boss will surrender at the first hint of displeasure, they’ll keep pushing. Reporting “without fear or favour” becomes virtually impossible if someone senior in your organisation seems open to both. In its handling of that complaint, the BBC effectively hung one of its most senior female journalists out to dry. One wonders if they’d have done the same to Jeremy Paxman. The Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, meanwhile, seemingly continues to enjoy great licence to offer his views on Twitter.
The BBC is hardly alone in being accused of having an incestuous relationship with power. Maitlis will now host a show for LBC, which recently offered up presenter Rachel Johnson interviewing her father, Stanley Johnson, about her brother Boris Johnson. James Slack, the former director of communications to the latter, is now deputy editor of the Sun – which must have made for some awkward morning press conferences when the big running story was a raucously drunken Downing Street lockdown leaving party held for one James Slack. There has long been a pretty greasy revolving door between Fleet Street and Downing Street, but viewers expect a publicly funded institution such as the BBC to rise above all that; to remain unimpeachable and unflappable, whether under fire from left or right. Instead it looks increasingly cowed, still spooked by a referendum result it didn’t foresee six years ago, and worryingly inconsistent.
Why has our national broadcaster lost its nerve? The government’s threat to remove the licence fee, a sword of Damocles now constantly hanging over its head, is the most obvious answer. Another might be the installation of Richard Sharp, a pro-Brexit Tory donor, as chair. Maitlis, however, took aim at what she called an “active Conservative party agent” on the BBC board – a reference to Robbie Gibb, the smoothest of smooth operators, who has moved seamlessly between politics and journalism all his life. (Having initially worked for the then Conservative shadow minister Francis Maude, Gibb moved to the BBC, then became Theresa May’s head of communications, before returning controversially to the BBC, where he wields significant influence over journalistic output.)
Yet the BBC’s troubles go well beyond any one individual. The corporation is buffeted by forces it cannot seem to grip; a chilly commercial climate, a post-truth political culture where even categorical denials from No 10 can no longer be believed, but also rising tensions with some staff who see neutrality as uncomfortably close to complicity in the current climate. The basic journalistic principle of divorcing your own feelings from the story sits increasingly uneasily with a younger generation of reporters, and perhaps also viewers, raised to “call out” what they believe to be wrong and to prize authenticity. It will take more than a revised set of corporate guidelines to reconcile all this with the still timeless need for trusted news free of bias. But if the BBC can’t square the circle then its stars will keep leaving, each time declaring that they want the freedom to say what they think. Only Maitlis, however, has so far used it to say what actually needed saying.
REALLY! ONLY Maitlis has said "what needed saying" about the BBC. Media Lens (among many others) would like a word outside.
I'm off to check if anyone calls out the obvious in the comments; doubtful.
...no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party...So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.