EMILY Maitlis has alleged that a BBC board member is an “active agent of the Conservative party” who is shaping the corporation’s news content.

Sir Robbie Gibb, described as the “arbiter of BBC impartiality”, was appointed to the BBC board last year by Boris Johnson's government and was formerly Theresa May’s communications director before helping establish GB News.

Maitlis said: "According to the Financial Times, he's attempted to block the appointments of journalists he considers damaging to government relations, provoking Labour's deputy leader (among others) to call it 'Tory cronyism at the heart of the BBC'."

Maitlis raised her concerns about Gibb during a lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival – where she said that the BBC had actively tried to “pacify” No. 10 after she slated Dominic Cummings for his trip to Barnard Castle during lockdown.

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She claimed she panicked BBC bosses by saying that Cummings had “broken the rules” and “the country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot” during an episode of Newsnight in 2020.

Maitlis says that, initially, the show “passed off with a few pleasant texts from BBC editors and frankly little else”.

She added: “It was only the next morning that the wheels fell off. A phone call of complaint was made from Downing Street to the BBC News management. This, for context, is not unusual.

“What was not foreseen was the speed with which the BBC sought to pacify the complainant. Within hours, a very public apology was made, the programme was accused of a failure of impartiality, the recording disappeared from iPlayer, and there were paparazzi outside my front door.

“Why had the BBC immediately and publicly sought to confirm the government spokesman’s opinion? Without any kind of due process? It makes no sense for an organisation that is admirably, famously rigorous about procedure – unless it was perhaps sending a message of reassurance directly to the government itself?

“Put this in the context of the BBC Board, where another active agent of the Conservative party – former Downing Street spin doctor, and former adviser to BBC rival GB News – now sits, acting as the arbiter of BBC impartiality.”

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Discussing her career at the BBC, Maitlis said that the broadcaster had often indulged in “both-sides-ism” in its efforts to be impartial – something she claimed platformed individuals who should not have been on air.

She gave the example of how during the Brexit referendum the corporation gave an unbalanced portrayal by having one pro-Brexit economist debate one other anti-Brexit economist, despite most in the contributors' line of work believing that Brexit would be bad for the economy.

The former Newsnight host acknowledged that she had made mistakes in trying to achieve impartiality, adding that attacks on media professionals can lead journalists to “censor our own interviews to avoid the backlash”.

She said that Brexit was a particularly sensitive topic with sections of the BBC and the Government going “into an automatic crouch position” whenever the topic “looms large”.

She added: “And yet every day that we sidestep these issues with glaring omissions feels like a conspiracy against the British people; we are pushing the public further away. Why should our viewers, our listeners, come to us to interpret and explain what is going on when they can see our own reluctance to do so?”

Maitlis said that while journalists don’t have to campaign on issues, they should try not to be “complaisant, complicit onlookers”.

Finally, she said: “Our job is to make sense of what we are seeing and anticipate the next move. It’s the moment, in other words, the frog should be leaping out of the boiling water and phoning all its friends to warn them. But by then we are so far along the path of passivity, we’re cooked.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC places the highest value on due impartiality and accuracy and we apply these principles to our reporting on all issues.

“As we have made clear previously in relation to Newsnight we did not take action as a result of any pressure from Number 10 or Government and to suggest otherwise is wrong. The BBC found the programme breached its editorial standards and that decision still stands.”