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Damned by her own words, Maitlis the uber-bigot


MSM opprobrium by the sackful has been heaped on former BBC2 Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis after her recent address at the Edinburgh Television Festival. 

Rightly so. BBC Director General Tim Davie says his number one priority is ensuring BBC impartiality, but for five years Maitlis was a lead presenter of the BBC’s flagship network news and current affairs programme, and her speech confirmed that throughout that time she was flagrantly pursuing a vendetta against those she despises. It also revealed that her grasp of journalistic standards and practice is hinged on her personal prejudice rather than public service ideals.    

Her words can best be summed up as an exercise in self-aggrandisement with herself cast as a brilliant journalist fighting the evils of populism in all its guises, Trump, the Tory Party (especially Dominic Cummings), Brexit – all those who disagree with her supercharged highly political motives. 

Those leading the charge against Maitlis include Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who dubbed her the ‘Meghan Markle of journalism’ with a risibly blatant Remainer/anti-Tory agenda. 

Arguably, the bias in her speech was totally predictable in that the McTaggart memorial lecture at Edinburgh has for decades been dominated by TV land’s leading liberal-left zealots such as Jon Snow, former presenter of Channel 4 News, and former Channel 4 News chief Dorothy Byrne, who used it as platform to bash anyone who disagrees with their values. An account of the prejudice displayed in Snow’s lecture is here.

As with Snow, dissection of the 6,000-plus words in the Maitlis speech is not for the faint-hearted. This is a woman who has the rare distinction of twice being officially found guilty of failures of impartiality by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), once for a vitriolic programme-opening diatribe against Dominic Cummings for visiting his family in Co Durham during lockdown. (There is reportage, and there is justifiable questioning and analysis, but ad hominem attack is out of order). The second rebuke was after viewers complained she was ‘sneering and bullying’ towards Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle.   

Putting that into context, the ECU’s track record of dealing with problems in BBC output is that since 2017, the Corporation has received 1.3million complaints. Of these, only 112 were upheld, mostly only ‘partly’ (and even then, usually only on minor points). Two ECU black marks against that background of pro-BBC stonewalling is impressive. 

Maitlis’s bias could perhaps best be seen in Edinburgh in her analysis of Brexit coverage. She declared about the EU Referendum in 2016: ‘[The] UK is beginning to debate the big questions around Britain’s potential exit from the EU. It is complicated stuff. We are trying to offer our viewers both sides of a fiendishly difficult debate. And that intention was right. But we still got it wrong. We fell into what we might call the “Patrick Minford paradigm”. In other words, it might take our producers five minutes to find 60 economists who feared Brexit and five hours to find a sole voice who espoused it. But by the time we went on air we simply had one of each; we presented this unequal effort to our audience as balance. It wasn’t. I would later learn the ungainly name for this myopic style of journalism: “both sideism”.’

The alarming thing here is that it does not even occur to Maitlis that the BBC should jolly well have made its job in an ‘in’/‘out’ referendum to find economists who supported Brexit. It’s a blatant lie that they did not exist, for example in the Business for Britain group. 

The fact is that – as News-watch research vividly illustrates – the BBC for years leading up to the referendum severely under-represented Leave opinion to the extent that they were blind to its existence. Chillingly, what Maitlis really wants is that those who disagree with her should be silenced and kept off-air.      

Another indication of her bias can be found in her attempts to clothe her speech in academic respectability. The main figure she quotes is an Israeli sociologist called Ayala Panievsky who, it seems, has never worked directly in broadcast journalism, but has written a number of research papers claiming that populism is an insidious negative force which has worked only by hijacking the media and forcing public service broadcasters into the aforementioned ‘both sideism’ (apparently her phrase). 

And who is this Ms Panievsky whom Maitlis so reveres? Currently she is a Gates Cambridge ‘PhD scholar’; the scheme was set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a $210million grant in 2000. She is also ‘research associate’ at an Israeli pressure group called Molad, the Centre for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy. Its agenda? Predictably, it is heavily pro-Palestinian. There are several more connections which confirm Ms Panievsky’s total commitment to liberal-left fanaticism and anti-Jewish causes (thanks here to fellow TCW writer Karen Harradine for additional research).

In a Times interview at the weekend Maitlis said she was ‘horrified’ to hear Liz Truss suggest on GB News that their journalists weren’t like the BBC, because at least they got their facts right. ‘I understand that is populist rhetoric and that is how you get your round of applause from the audience. It effectively isolates journalists from the conversation, belittling them, while trying to speak directly to the people, but I think it has a really deleterious impact on this country. The trashing of constitutional norms and vilification and intimidation of journalists is unhealthy for our democracy.’ So she’s put the new PM in the same tent as Panievsky’s ‘populism’ and all the others she disagrees with.

In her Edinburgh speech, Maitlis further claimed that the BBC was now in the grip of a ‘Conservative agent’. Her target was former BBC political programmes news executive Sir Robbie Gibb, who briefly was a Downing Street communications director before returning to the Corporation as a member of the overall BBC Management Board. The idea that one man among battalions of those sharing Maitlis-type views could control BBC bias is utterly naïve.   

And there we have it. Maitlis, of course, has now left the BBC for a new LBC-related venture with her fellow Corporation Trump-hater Jon Sopel. (In the Times piece she says they endlessly text each other at 3am with new ideas: ‘My husband doesn’t mind at all. I think he feels it’s sharing the labour. I’m quite exhausting to have in the house as I live off adrenaline.’)

Her aim in Edinburgh was to show that she is an exemplar of impartial public service broadcasting. In reality she is anything but – a front-line shock trooper of the terrifying globalism being advocated by the likes of Bill Gates.

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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