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Editors issue inclusivity warning over Downing Street TV briefings plan

Ian Murray 2The Society of Editors has called for any planned televised Downing Street briefings to be open to a “broad cross-section of the media”.

The SoE is seeking clarification over reports that the government is to introduce daily White House-style TV press briefings, which would replace the existing behind closed doors afternoon briefings to lobby journalists.

The morning briefings for lobby journalists will still take place and will not be televised.

SoE executive director Ian Murray has warned the news briefings must be “inclusive” and not “too stage-managed”.

He said: “If the aim of the televised briefings is to enable greater transparency then it will be important that they are of sufficient length and inclusive in nature to ensure a broad cross-section of the media is able to question the government.

“It is vital that the government gives assurances that journalists or media providers out of favour with the administration will not be barred from such briefings and will also be given the opportunity to pose questions.

“Briefings that are too stage-managed and favour the few will not be in the best interests of the public as a whole.”

Jonathan Walker, political editor of the Birmingham Post and Mail and Newcastle Chronicle and Journal, has also aired his thoughts on the plans.

Posting on Twitter, he wrote: “At the moment I can go to a lobby briefing and ask a question. So can the Yorkshire Post, papers in Hull, Grimsby, Bristol, Cardiff, the Scottish media.

“The [daily coronavirus] press conferences so far have allowed just 3/4 non-broadcast media a question, chosen in advance, a question each day.

“This doesn’t mean I want to ask a question every single day. The point is that if I have a good reason to, I can ask one.

“Having said that, we don’t know if ‘televised lobby’ will be like the press conferences or will be more like the current arrangements, but on telly.

“Blair held regular press conferences and would stay there for a long time taking Qs from people who raise their hand. Trump does the same more or less.

“And there is still the morning lobby, so possibly what we’ll get is the best of both worlds. But there are advantages to the slightly chaotic briefings we currently have rather than televised events that will be more strictly controlled by Number 10.”

HTFP has approached Downing Street for a comment.