Journalists Say Transparency ‘Essential’ For No 10 Briefings

The news media sector has said that it is vital that access to the top of Government for a broad cross section of media is enhanced by planned changes to daily briefings for journalists by Number 10 Downing Street.  

It has been reported that a new White House-style daily televised press briefings are to be adopted by Downing Street in the autumn.

The Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar, chair of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, and the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves, chair of the lobby, said in a joint statement to Press Gazette that they hoped the changes weren’t being made to reduce transparency and lobby journalists’ access to ministers.

They said: “Before Covid we had two on-the-record briefings with No 10 every day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – which all could attend and ask as many questions as they wished. The second was temporarily replaced by the televised daily briefings which a few reporters were invited to attend virtually.

“We have read the reports about proposed changes with interest and hope the intention is to increase scrutiny and accountability. When No 10 has a detailed plan they feel able to consult us on we’ll be happy to work with them towards that end.

“We would not wish to see any changes used as an excuse to reduce transparency by, for example, reducing the number of daily briefings, limiting questions, those who can ask them, or our on-the-record access to Ministers.”

Chair of the Newspaper Conference Jonathan Walker, political editor of the Birmingham Post and Mail and Newcastle Chronicle and Journal, said: “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.”

The News Media Association said: “It is vital that any changes enhance transparency and scrutiny of Government rather than the reverse. Journalists represent the public and it is essential that they are able to effectively hold authority to account on their behalf.”