Boris Johnson slammed for ‘worrying’ move to bypass media scrutiny of Brexit message

The Canary

Downing Street has chosen to freeze out the BBC and other national broadcasters from recording Boris Johnson’s ‘Brexit day’ message, in a move that critics say has “worrying overtones”.

Avoiding scrutiny for “an easier ride”?

Johnson will issue an “address to the nation” on Friday 31 January, to mark Britain’s exit from the European Union at 11pm. But Downing Street is due to film the message internally rather than honouring a “long-established” arrangement of having historic speeches covered by a national broadcaster. Johnson’s in-house digital team will control the distribution of the recording to news outlets and its publication on social media.

The Conservative leader’s controversial move follows a government boycott of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and ITV’s Good Morning Britain, with no minister appearing on either since the election. This continues an apparent pattern of Johnson and his team avoiding public and media scrutiny, which began during the 2019 election campaign.

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said:

this latest development does have worrying overtones of an administration possibly seeking to bypass the mainstream media to achieve an easier ride. …

In the end, only the public is the loser when open access to those in power is closed off or restricted.

Tensions between Johnson and the media continue

The BBC, meanwhile, stated that it would make its own judgment on the “news value” of the address before deciding whether to air Johnson’s words. A spokesperson insisted:

There’s a long-established process for recording statements by the Prime Minister at significant times where one broadcaster records it and shares the footage…

The BBC and the other broadcasters are well used to following this usual process, which respects our independence as broadcasters.

If Number 10 wants to supply its own footage we will judge it on its news value when deciding whether to broadcast it, as we would with any footage supplied to us by third parties.

The development comes at a time of tension between Westminster journalists and Johnson’s administration following a decision, taken without consultation last month, to move daily briefings with his official spokesperson from parliament to Downing Street. Journalists have to pass through security to access the briefings at 9 Downing Street, which sparked fears that Johnson’s team could start to vet who attends the meetings.

Featured image and additional content via Press Association

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. This report casts different light on claims before the election that the BBC was in Johnson’s pocket. It is consistent with my notion that the BBC always has published mixed views on political and social matters thereby being subject to criticism of bias from Left, Right, and Mrs Mary Whitehouse, over the course of decades. This reflects that a media organisation charged with wide remit for expression of views, information, and quality entertainment cannot please everybody all the time: it ought not even try so to do.

      1. Govts can stack the Beeb board of governors
        and yes, they are in the gov’s pocket
        But they do have a tendency to fact check
        I think that has something to do with it
        Or the current Tories would not be so alergic to media interviews and feel the need to set up their own (albeit brief) fake fact checking twitter

    2. Ha. super ironic. The 3 companies that own most of UK print media and the 5 that own most UK imedia got deep into the mire for them
      And then the Tories become alergic to them.
      Methinks Boris is going to lie through his teeth.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.