The BBC is losing two of its leading broadcasters as the Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis and the former North America editor Jon Sopel have announced they are leaving to join the media group Global.
The pair will front a new podcast for Global Player, host a radio show together on LBC and provide commentary and analysis for the station’s website.
Maitlis has served as the lead presenter on Newsnight, and the two host the BBC’s popular Americast podcast, about US politics.
Maitlis said: “We are just so delighted to be launching this brand new podcast – which will build on everything we’ve achieved with Americast over the last few years – and it will find new audiences and a new home with Global. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Sopel said: “I’m delighted to be joining Global with my great friend and colleague Emily Maitlis. We’ve been blown away by the reception for Americast and are so excited that Global has given us the opportunity to build on this success by creating this innovative news podcast. This is an unmissable opportunity.”
The announcement means the two journalists will be free of BBC bureaucracy and can pursue lucrative paid speaking engagements unencumbered by the corporation’s constraints.
Insiders said Maitlis’s departure raised questions about the future of Newsnight. “This completely stuffs Newsnight, which is left without an editor and only has one presenter in the form of Kirsty Wark,” said one. The Newsnight editor, Esme Wren, left to join Channel 4 News late last year.
Maitlis, who landed the famous Prince Andrew interview, has been castigated repeatedly by the BBC for her tweets and social media output, as part of its impartiality drive.
Andrew Marr, on his departure to LBC, said he was “keen to get my own voice back” and was looking forward to having greater freedom to express himself outside the BBC’s strict impartiality rules.
Sopel was among the names tipped to succeed Laura Kuenssberg as BBC political editor when she steps down. No announcement has been made about her replacement. First-round interviews for the post are expected to place this week.
Sources said there was a sense that the BBC had not grasped how big podcasting was becoming because it was still fixated on servicing its old broadcast channels, and could not compete on money, talent and editorial freedom.
BBC on-air presenters are regularly offered big pay rises and job offers by News UK and Global for talk TV and podcast projects.
In an email to staff, Jonathan Munro, the BBC’s interim director of news and current affairs, said the pair had “made an enormous contribution to the BBC”.
He said: “Most recently as our North America editor, Jon has covered the stories of the region with flair – including three presidents, two elections, the impact of Covid, and the longer-term legacy of 9/11.”
Of Maitlis, Munro said: “Her notable interview with Prince Andrew about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein has led coverage of the story since it aired in 2019. Please join me in thanking both Emily and Jon for their many years of sterling service to the BBC and wishing them all the best for the future.”
Announcing the news on Twitter, Maitlis wrote: “It’s an amazing opportunity to do something we all love and we are so thrilled Global is giving us the opportunity to be big and ambitious with this project.
“Nevertheless, it will be a wrench to leave the BBC after 20 phenomenal years. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had there. More than anything I’m grateful to have worked with the most incredible people, many of whom are dear friends. I owe my BBC colleagues everything.”
Sopel tweeted: “Some work news: @maitlis and I are going to launch a brand, spanking new podcast with @global. We’re excited to be working with them on this innovative project. Opportunities like this just don’t come along very often. But am sad to leave the BBC, which has been home for so long.
“Of course, it will be a wrench to leave the BBC after nearly four decades, and have loved my time there – particularly the last seven years as North America editor. I leave with nothing but good feelings towards the corporation and wish all the best to my colleagues and friends there.”
The two will be working with Dino Sofos, the founder and CEO of the audio production company Persephonica, a former head of BBC news podcasts and the creator of Brexitcast, Newscast and Americast.
He tweeted: “Can’t wait to be reunited with these broadcasting legends as exec producer on this milestone moment for podcasting.”