Adam Boulton has described Sky Views, where journalists at the broadcaster share their opinions on topics in articles published online, as “a bit of a trap”.
The Sky News’ editor-at-large made the comments after the channel’s political editor Beth Rigby was criticised for a recent Sky Views article she wrote about the deadlock in Parliament.
“Parliament can, and should, take back control,” Rigby wrote, adding that “…MPs should now be preparing to finish what they have started and dispose of Mr Johnson should he refuse to sanction a Brexit extension”.
Boulton said Rigby had been “attacked” for pointing out what MPs could do next.
TV news is regulated by Ofcom and journalists are bound by due impartiality guidelines, which do not apply to news published online or in print.
Boulton said his understanding of Sky Views was that “you are supposed to give a personal perspective but you are not meant to cross over into giving an opinion”.
But he acknowledged it was a “very thin line to tread” for broadcast journalists.
He said he takes the same approach to his regular column in the Sunday Times.
“Me personally I try to stay off the political mainstream for that purpose and I do think I would be happy if they didn’t make us do it,” he said.
“I do think it’s a bit of a trap.”
Boulton was responding to a question from Press Gazette at a conference on Brexit and the media, at which he gave the keynote speech.
He added: “I do regard it as one of the pitfalls one has to negotiate each week but opinion is exactly the same, in my view, as doing [BBC genealogy show] Who Do Think You Are?”
Boulton said broadcasters want their correspondents to “have a profile and a personality” and Sky Views is part of this drive.
Boulton said it was also led by the fact more people access Sky News on their smartphones now than via TV screen which meant there was a need for more mobile content.
On Brexit reporting, Boulton said there is a “structural problem” which leads to claims of bias.
“There isn’t much to be said about Remain because we know what that’s like, because we’re here.”
He added: “There are many more questions to ask about what Leave would mean and the moment reporters are seen to be asking people questions about something then they are seen to be sceptical about the outcome. I think that’s just the job.”
He added: “I think there was an issue where possibly the BBC initially realised they made a mistake, which is there was a tendency at the BBC to assume that the referendum has happened therefore that’s government policy therefore it’s not something where you would question the outcome.
“It would be like questioning the outcome of the General Election. We at Sky always saw the referendum as part of a democratic process and were therefore always prepared to ask ‘will it happen’.”
Boulton said that during the Brexit process broadcasters had “grown apart” from the newspapers, which he said had become “so partisan in one or two titles”.
He added: “I don’t think anyone takes the front page of The Sun seriously anymore.”