BBC to 'reset' Laura Kuenssberg show after Joe Lycett's ambush leaves Team Truss 'incandescent' – iNews

Comedians will be prevented from ambushing politicians on the BBC’s flagship Sunday morning show, after Liz Truss’s team were said to be “incandescent” that her interview with Laura Kuenssberg was hijacked by Joe Lycett.
The debut edition of Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg was derailed by the guest panellist, who used his platform to sarcastically praise the incoming prime minister.
There was concern within the BBC that the edition, which reignited criticism of the BBC’s impartiality among Conservative MPs, could have long-term consequences.
“Team Truss was incandescent afterwards. She agreed to give a significant interview after blowing out Nick Robinson,” an insider said. “It confirmed all their prejudices that the BBC is left-wing and just a bit silly.”
Truss is expected to push ahead with a review designed to produce an alternative to the licence fee.
The controversy couldn’t have come at a worse time for BBC Director-General Tim Davie, who faces a grilling by MPs on Tuesday.
Kuenssberg told viewers she wanted her new show to be “fun” but appeared unprepared for Lycett, who is known for his stunts. The comedian could be heard whooping after the Truss interview, telling the presenter: “I’m actually very right-wing and I loved it.”
Rob Burley, who edited the Andrew Marr show on Sundays, said the BBC should not have placed a comedian on a “serious” political show.
“There was lots to admire on the first show but the panel needs an urgent rethink and someone senior at the BBC should have seen Lycett’s lame hijack coming.”
“The only point of panels is to illuminate and help understand what’s happening or being said. It’s there for analysis not showing off.
“It was always going to risk trivialising the whole exercise on day one. The Exec(utive editor, Katy Searle) is paid to spot risks and intervene. Failed.”
Former BBC inquisitor Andrew Neil said Lycett’s intervention prevented discussion of a significant policy statement made by Truss.
“What she said – in marked contrast to B Johnson – is that, for her, economic growth matters more than income distribution. It’s a clear break – and by far the most important thing she said. But did the panel discuss it? Mr Lycett certainly missed it.”
Although no formal “ban” on comedians is expected, there is an acceptance within the BBC hierarchy that Sunday’s Lycett “takeover” cannot be repeated on the flagship show, with potentially controversial bookings coming under closer scrutiny.
The BBC defended the broadcast, saying: “There will be a wide range of guests, with a wide range of opinions, throughout this series.”
Impartiality had been achieved by interviewing both Conservative leadership candidates and including Boris Johnson’s former deputy chief of staff Cleo Watson on the guest panel.
However some within the BBC were scathing about the Kuenssberg format.
“Modernising the show is fine as an aim but it looked like the BBC is ‘dad dancing’. If the panel is going to be weaved into the heart of the new programme, commenting on the interviews, it can’t be led by a comic,” an insider said.
“That will have to change if the programme is going to maintain its central role or ministers just won’t go on it.”
However, some viewers praised Lycett for undermining the traditional boundaries and formulaic nature of the set-piece political interview.
James O’Brien, the LBC presenter, called Lycett’s mocking of Truss “satire at its most subversive best.”
A BBC spokesperson said they did not recognise claims that there would be significant changes to the format.
Lycett, a Channel 4 regular who is promoting a forthcoming tour, revelled in his notoriety. He said he would be taking a Daily Mail front page reporting his performance “to the framers”.
He had given a clue to his intentions by tweeting the night before his appearance: “Really excited to be on this new version of Would I Lie To You” – referencing the TV panel game where contestants try to convince each other that their outrageous stories are in fact the truth.
Afterwards, he posted a picture showing him handing Kuenssberg a “gift for her first show, something I knew she’d love – an original painting of Robert Peston in jail.”
Addressing staff on her arrival on Monday, incoming BBC News CEO Deborah Turness stated the importance of viewers being able to trust what they see on BBC News.
“They need to understand more about how we do our work, if they are to truly believe. They need us to pull back the curtain. To tell them not just what we know, but how we know it. And what we don’t know,” she said.
More “transparency” in how reports are put together will ensure that “BBC News is the most impartial and the most accurate that it can be,” the former ITN chief executive said.
Ms Turness’s first challenge will be responding to threats of industrial action by staff over plans to merge the BBC News and World News rolling channels into one single service, which journalists fear will drastically reduce the broadcaster’s ability to cover UK-based news.
Mr Davie is expected to be questioned on the changes when he appears before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday.
Reports suggest Nadine Dorries could stay on as Culture Secretary, either as an MP or in the Lords. She has stated that the licence fee settlement imposed on the BBC this year will be the last of its kind.
The £159-a-year charge could be replaced with a universal household levy linked to council tax bills, with a Netflix-style subscription “top-up” for entertainment and sport also set for consideration.
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