After giving it a free run, the BBC finally nailed the Institute for Economic Affairs

Emily Maitlis and Shanker Singham IEA

Viewers were surprised and delighted by Emily Maitlis’s brutal interview with a spokesperson from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) on the 30 July edition of BBC Newsnight:


As the Guardian reported, a sting by an undercover reporter from Greenpeace revealed that the IEA:

has been offering potential US donors access to government ministers and civil servants as it raises cash for research to support the free-trade deals demanded by hardline Brexiters.

But ahead of the IEA’s appearance on Newsnight, people were sceptical about the BBC‘s ability to hold the organisation to account:


The BBC has previously been accused of giving IEA representatives a platform without making it clear whose interests they are representing. On one Newsnight episode, the IEA’s news editor Kate Andrews called for NHS privatisation. Yet the BBC‘s lack of acknowledgement of who funds the IEA led openDemocracy editor Adam Ramsay to accuse it of breaking its own conflict of interest rules:

Who funds you?

But Maitlis’s aggressive interview was poles apart from this previously tepid journalism. She expertly highlighted the difference between the IEA having charitable status compared to if it were to be classed as a consultant lobbyist. And Twitter users also picked up on this point:

She then attacked it on its lack of transparency over who funds its work:

Maitlis then concluded with a powerful description of the IEA’s murky behaviour:

I’m asking you to help me here, to stand back and look at the perception of this revolving door which spins you from American lobby donors to top UK government ministers… you’ve got to admit it tastes really funny.


People were shocked and delighted by this change of approach from the BBC:

People singled out Maitlis in particular for praise:

Too little too late?

Yet for others, the BBC‘s newfound aggressive approach is too little, too late:

As The Canary previously reported, the IEA has a deeply worrying influence over some of the government’s biggest hitters. And some on social media blame the BBC for the organisation’s prominence:

Yet just as the BBC‘s past indiscretions deserve criticism, Maitlis’s excellent interview deserves praise.

Let’s hope that, rather than coming around once in a blue moon, it represents a new dawn for BBC Newsnight.

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Featured image via YouTube – BBC Newsnight / YouTube – BBC Newsnight

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