The BBC has found that an episode of its newspaper review programme broadcast on the night Boris Johnson pulled out of the most recent Conservative leadership contest failed to meet its editorial standards on impartiality.
The corporation said there was a “significant risk” that audiences could have interpreted the presenter Martine Croxall’s remarks as an opinion on the Tory race.
During the programme, which began 90 minutes after Johnson announced he would not stand in the contest, Croxall said: “Well this is all very exciting, isn’t it?” before adding: “Am I allowed to be this gleeful? Well I am.”
The BBC said the broadcast on 23 October featured “several remarks and reactions” from the presenter that “caused a significant risk that the audience could believe opinions were being expressed on the Conservative leadership contest”.
It also said there was insufficient counter and challenge to some 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 said. “This does not accord with the BBC’s commitment to editorial impartiality.”
Croxall, who was taken off air after the episode, acknowledged she may have breached the public broadcaster’s guidelines when she laughed at a guest’s comment mocking the former prime minister.
“I shouldn’t probably [laugh],” she said. “I’m probably breaking some terrible due impartiality rule by giggling.”
The BBC has confirmed that Croxall will be back on air on Friday, but she will not immediately be presenting The Papers. The complaint was being resolved through an internal process, it added.
Croxall’s comment attracted criticism on social media, including from the Tory MP Nadine Dorries, a Johnson supporter, who tweeted: “This lack of impartiality demonstrates how deep-seated the bias is.”
Johnson never formally declared his candidacy for the leadership but told supporters he wanted to run. There was speculation that he did not manage to secure the required number of 100 MPs to support his nomination, and the race was eventually won by Rishi Sunak.