New BBC Newsnight editor’s Twitter fiasco raises concerns on impartiality

Less than two weeks into his new job, the editor of BBC Two’s already scandal-ridden flagship current affairs programme ‘Newsnight‘ has drawn accusations regarding the programme’s lack of impartiality and once again resulted in the BBC having to report on its own controversies.  

Former Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz – who is apparently not yet up to speed with the BBC’s guidelines on the use of Twitter – inadvertently sent a Tweet to more than 26,000 followers describing one of the programme’s interviewees as “boring snoring”.

Katz apologised on Twitter to interviewee Rachel Reeves MP, but Ms Reeves’ party was not impressed. 

“But Labour sent Katz an email demanding a full public apology for the “completely unacceptable” comment.

The message sent by the party said: “We would like to express our anger and disappointment at your tweet following Newsnight’s interview with Rachel Reeves.

“It is completely unacceptable for a senior BBC editor to have expressed this view, whether or not you intended for it to be made public.

“It is vitally important that the Labour party, our shadow cabinet and Newsnight viewers have confidence in the impartiality and fairness of your programme, and the criteria on which guests and interviews are judged.

“This incident undermines that confidence and it is important that this is redressed. Although a tweet of apology has been made, a full written public apology should be made by the end of the day.” “

Katz’s reply to that e-mail does not do himself or the organisation he represents any favours:

“I don’t accept your implication that my tweet reflects in any way on the impartiality of Newsnight..”

Apparently Mr Katz has not yet caught on to the fact that he no longer works for a private media organization but is now part of a publicly funded body bound by editorial guidelines. The issue of subjective interpretations of those guidelines by BBC editors tasked with implementing them is of course a matter of wider concern for BBC audiences than that raised by this incident alone.  

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