Kay Burley off air at Sky News for 6 months over Covid rule breach

The Sky News speaker Kay Burley will be off air for six months after hosting a birthday party that broke coronavirus guidelines.

Sky’s political editor, Beth Rigby, and the north of England reporter Inzamam Rashid have concurred not to be on air for 3 months.

All three journalists will remain on complete pay throughout their time away, which was characterised as “concurred” absences instead of suspensions.

Sky stated in a declaration that “all those involved remorse the event and have apologised”.

It is understood that the broadcaster hopes the relocation will draw the line under a harmful episode, and it has no intention of their punishment lasting beyond the revealed duration.

But it now faces covering the continuing coronavirus crisis and the conclusion of Brexit talks without one of its most significant names and, maybe more troublingly, without its lead political reporter.

In an e-mail to colleagues, Burley said: “I’m a moron. I’m truly extremely sorry. I know I have let many of you down. There’s truly nothing else I can say to excuse my actions.” She stated anybody who wished to talk about the situation should call her.

She likewise released a statement on Twitter that stated: “It doesn’t matter that I thought I was Covid-compliant on a recent gathering. The fact is I was wrong, I made a big mistake, and I am sorry.”

She added that she “tremendously” was sorry for others being pulled into the episode. And she said: “I very much anticipate being able to continue my 32-year profession with Sky when I return.”

In messages sent to colleagues at the broadcaster, Rigby and Rashid likewise revealed their apologies.

Rigby wrote: “I want you to know how sorry I am that I let you all down, in addition to our audiences whom we’re here to serve. I will utilize this time to reflect on all of this and then come back prepared to work with you all again in the new year.”

Rashid wrote: “I slipped up and I feel dreadful for how my actions might reflect on Sky News and the amazing individuals who work here … I let you down and I want you to know I’m really sorry and it will not take place again.”

The panel that assessed the cases concluded that the behaviour of Sam Washington, another presenter who was present for part of the evening, did not warrant a sanction and it is understood that she will be back on air next week.

Staff on Burley’s breakfast programme are stated to be stunned by the news. But senior leaders at Sky are comprehended to have concluded that they had little choice but to impose an extreme penalty on Burley, who admitted to breaking coronavirus guidelines with the party however declared to have actually done so by “appearing” to a dining establishment since she required to “spend a penny”.

In reality, Burley belonged to a group of 10 that dined at two tables, of six and four, in one location prior to proceeding to another. A group of four then went on to her home. Sky News has declined to comment on whether they were sitting inside or outside, but acknowledged that rules were broken.

Other journalists at the company who talked to the Guardian were broadly supportive to Rashid and Rigby, but a number of characterised staffers’ view of Burley as more ambivalent.

One said there was “something ugly about the glee with which some places have gone after her. She didn’t kill anybody.” But they added: “The tweets haven’t been excellent … complete pay for 6 months when you’re on what she’s on is a good penalty.” Another stated: “Lots of us have actually asked for pay rises/bonuses for the last few years and been informed there’s no spending plan.”

At an all-hands meeting on Wednesday also covering a range of more routine issues, the head of Sky News, John Ryley, read out the statement that the company put out on Monday which expressed “disappointment” and noted that a review was under way.

Issues that the affair might spiral out of control grew on Wednesday when the veteran presenter Adam Boulton broke ranks to tell the Guardian: “Sky has worked extremely hard throughout the whole Covid crisis and has actually taken a very clear line about public safety, and certainly something like this possibly underlines [the significance of] that.”

The company said: “Everybody at Sky News is expected to comply with the guidelines and the company takes breaches like this very seriously indeed”.

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