Lewis Goodall joins BBC exodus amid impartiality campaign | BBC

Another prominent BBC journalist quit for a business rival after growing tired of the public broadcaster’s drive for impartiality.

Newsnight editor Lewis Goodall will join former colleagues Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel to create a daily podcast for media company Global, which owns radio stations including LBC.

Goodall was a rising BBC star who increasingly featured in the society’s election night coverage. But rather than stick with the BBC, he has instead decided to join the exodus to commercial rivals who can offer more editorial freedom – and more money.

Colleagues said Goodall, who this year applied to become the BBC’s political editor, was frustrated with the way BBC management interpreted chief executive Tim Davie’s desire for impartiality.

The journalist was targeted by Sir Robbie Gibb, a former BBC executive who served as Downing Street communications director under Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May. In 2020, Gibb publicly asked, “Is there anyone more damaging to the BBC’s reputation for impartiality than Lewis Goodall?”

Gibb was later appointed to the BBC’s board by the Conservative government and helped launch a series of upcoming impartiality reviews which will examine every aspect of BBC production for any potential bias.

Tim Davie has made enforcing impartiality a central part of his pitch for running the broadcaster and has been partially successful in reducing the number of critical reports about his reporters in right-wing media. But who exactly defines impartiality on key policy issues has sometimes been difficult for staff to interpret. Many BBC journalists report increased government pressure on stories and a general chilling effect, with management guessing what objections might come from Downing Street over important stories.

Maitlis was also fed up with being reprimanded by management for breaching impartiality rules in her Newsnight monologues and tweets, while Andrew Marr also quit the BBC saying he wanted to be able to speak more freely.

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A BBC reporter said the problem was not with impartiality rules, but with how the government uses them to intimidate management. “Fairness should be a liberating concept – it should mean without fear or favour. Instead, they allow it to be used as a stick to destroy them,” he said.

Where in the past BBC journalists could not find attractive job offers elsewhere, the boom in podcasting and voice radio has now given them viable alternative careers.

The BBC also recently introduced a requirement for its presenters to report external income from hosting conferences and awards events, which can be lucrative – but caught the attention of Sopel and Marr. Global has no such obligation to compel its employees to publicly declare their self-employed earnings.

Other prominent BBC journalists are eyeing similar offers from commercial rivals, although many remain loyal to a broadcaster that can still offer access to a huge audience far larger than any commercial rival.

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