BBC rules it failed to meet impartiality standards on episode of The Papers

The BBC has ruled that “several remarks and reactions” made by presenter Martine Croxall caused a “significant risk” that the audience could believe “opinions were being expressed” on the Conservative leadership contest.

Broadcaster Croxall, 53, was taken off air following the episode on October 23 amid claims she showed bias after Boris Johnson pulled out of the leadership contest, which was later won by Rishi Sunak.

During her introduction to the Sunday night edition of The Papers, in which members of the press and experts look at how the main stories of the day were covered, she said: “Well this is all very exciting, isn’t it?” adding: “Am I allowed to be this gleeful? Well I am.”

The programme started around 90 minutes after Mr Johnson pulled out of the Tory leadership race.

Conservative leadership bid
Former prime minister Boris Johnson (Gareth Fuller/PA)

In her first question to her guests, Croxall also remarked: “Can we even show you the front pages just yet, have they arrived? No they haven’t arrived.

“It’s all a little bit, you know, lastminute.com isn’t it? Because all the front pages were probably out of date by the time we received them.”

After reviewing viewers complaints, the BBC said in a statement on Thursday: “In this programme several remarks and reactions from the presenter caused a significant risk that the audience could believe opinions were being expressed on the Conservative leadership contest.

“In addition, there was insufficient counter and challenge to some of the opinions expressed by guests on the programme.

“Taken together, this meant that this edition of The Papers did not meet our editorial standards, as it gave the audience the opportunity to infer an editorial position on the part of the BBC.”

It added: “This does not accord with the BBC’s commitment to editorial impartiality.”

The episode also saw Croxall suggest that her comments could have breached BBC guidelines.

Responding to a guest’s joke aimed at Mr Johnson, she said: “I shouldn’t probably (laugh). I’m probably breaking some terrible due impartiality rule by giggling.”

Some viewers, including several Tory MPs, reacting to a clip on social media, complained it displayed bias.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries said on Twitter: “This lack of impartiality demonstrates how deep seated the bias is.”

Croxall will be back on air from Friday and internal processes have been undertaken to ensure editorial requirements are fully understood, the PA news agency understands.