Emily Maitlis, one of the most respected British news broadcasters of the past two decades and the notorious Prince Andrew Newsnight interviewer, is to deliver this year’s prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.
Former Newsnight host Maitlis’ address, which will focus on the role TV has to play in speaking truth to power, will be her first since leaving the BBC as she prepares to front a Global podcast with former BBC North America Correspondent Jon Sopel.
The multi-award-winning Maitlis is one of the most established British TV news faces of the past two decades, working for a number of networks, mainly the BBC, fronting popular podcasts and interviewing presidents, prime ministers, Hollywood A-listers and business leaders.
She is known for her thorough interviewing style and an in-depth knowledge of a whole range of issues. Perhaps her best moment came during the 2019 Prince Andrew interview over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal for Newsnight, which left the Prince in disgrace.
Two projects are currently in the making about the interview, one from Maitlis herself with A Very English Scandal producer Blueprint Pictures and the other a feature adaptation of a chapter in former Newsnight producer Sam McAlister’s Scoop, revealed last month by Deadline.
Maitlis described the MacTaggart news as an “honor beyond belief,” a “massive privilege but also a responsibility.”
In a teaser of what’s to come, she added: “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. In many places the political actors, their style of communication and their relationship with the truth has changed.”
Fatima Salaria, Edinburgh’s Executive Chair and MD of The Apprentice producer Naked, said: “Emily Maitlis has delivered the news into our living rooms for over 20 years but could never be described as a news reader. Sharper and edgier than was comfortable for her last employer, she is happiest when cracking open a story and not just reporting it.”
Maitlis’ speech, the first in-person for three years, looks set to take a similar tone to former Channel 4 News boss Dorothy Byrne’s 2019 address, which called out mainstream politicians for lying and refusing to be held to account.
She follows in the footsteps of a number of recent MacTaggart lecturers who have cleared a path for change, including last year’s Jack Thorne, who lambasted the industry for “totally and utterly failing disabled people,” David Olusoga, who decried a “lost generation” of ethnic minority talent, and Michaela Coel, who called out the way in which TV treats “misfits.”
The Alternative MacTaggart will be delivered by Rose Ayling-Ellis, the deaf actor and winner of last year’s Strictly Come Dancing.