TV Festival

Maitlis ‘honoured’ to deliver MacTaggart lecture

Emily Maitlis interviewing the Duke of York

Former BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis will deliver the James MacTaggart memorial lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

Her keynote speech will explore the “threat to reporting the news and holding power to account across the globe”.

Ms Maitlis, who left the BBC to join media group Global, has also worked at broadcasters such as NBC Asia, TVB, Channel 4 and Sky.

She spent six years reporting from the Far East, based in Hong Kong and speaks Spanish, French and Italian. She is the author of a book about her years as a Newsnight presenter.

Maitlis joined Global alongside former BBC North America editor Jon Sopel to front a major show and podcast.

At the BBC she presented general elections and at Newsnight she introduced longer form interviews. She won a Royal Television Society award for her interview with the Duke of York over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

However, she has had brushes with the BBC over impartiality. In May 2020, in her capacity as lead anchor for Newsnight, she was found to have failed to meet expected standards when making remarks about Dominic Cummings breaking coronavirus lockdown rules – a decision she disagreed with.

The MacTaggart lecture has been delivered by other broadcasters such as former Channel Four anchor Jon Snow, and another former Newsnight host, Jeremy Paxman.

Maitlis said: “The list of extraordinary people who have given this lecture makes this an honour beyond belief. It is a massive privilege — but also a responsibility. To get this right. The need to hold power to account without fear or favour is more urgent than ever before.

“We are good at documenting censorship and intimidation of journalists around the world. But we are sometimes too slow to recognise how and when it is happening in more subtle ways, closer to home.”

Edinburgh Festival executive chair, Fatima Salaria, said Maitlis was “sharper and edgier than was comfortable for her last employer” and that she is “happiest when cracking open a story and not just reporting it”.

“Fans not just of her Prince Andrew encounter but Newsnight, Americast, and her best-selling book Airhead, will want to hear her take on truth, power and impartiality in what promises to be a challenging and insightful MacTaggart,” she added.

The MacTaggart Lecture will be delivered on the evening of Wednesday 24 August.

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