UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking for an experienced broadcaster to front Downing Street’s new daily televised briefings set to launch in October, and he’s looking towards the White House for inspiration, says CNN Business reporter Hadas Gold.
This Wednesday, the UK Prime Minister’s Office posted a job advertisement asking for “an experienced and confident media operator” to run the new daily televised briefings. The description for the position says, “You will represent the government and the Prime Minister to an audience of millions on a daily basis, across the main broadcast channels and social media, and have the chance to influence and shape public opinion.”
According to a Times article, Johnson is looking for a female broadcaster to fill this spot to help deflect criticisms that his administration has a “woman problem.” Some of the potential picks that have been suggested include Sophy Ridge of Sky News, Amber de Botton of ITV News, Vicki Young of BBC News, Allegra Stratton, Rishi Sunak’s PR chief, and Rosie Bate-Williams, a Defra official and former Tory spin doctor.
Up until this October, the press briefings on No. 10 Downing Street have always been held twice a day without any cameras present. The decision to switch to a televised format came after the UK’s daily pandemic press conferences became one of the most watched television broadcasts in British history, pulling more than 27.5 million viewers one Sunday according to a Variety Magazine story. Johnson seems to want to keep that trend alive. In early July, Johnson told LBC radio, “We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us and so we’re going to have a go at that.”
However, a few aficionados of the White House’s own televised press briefings have offered some cautious warnings about the new changes. Mike McMurry, the former White House Press Secretary who first started the White House’s televised briefings in 1995, now thinks that the briefings should be “embargoed,” reports CNN.
“This requires journalists to record the briefing, test the information against other sources, maybe extract comment from others, and then prepare reports that use what is truly newsworthy,” McCurry said.
Ben Feller, the former chief White House correspondent for the Associated Press, told CNN Business that most reporters don’t find the daily briefings very helpful, but still suggests that reporters “prepare appropriately, get to the point, don’t take punts for answers, follow up, and act as you normally would.”
Caren Bohan, the Washington editor of USA Today and a former White House Correspondents’ Association president, gave a more optimistic remark. While she acknowledged that televising the Downing Street briefings would change the relationship between the press and government, she still thinks that the change is “overdue.”“Most public officials are likely to be more guarded on camera than they would be speaking to reporters without cameras. You are more likely to get ‘talking points’ and less candid responses,” Bohan said, according to CNN. “That said, the more access there is, the better it is for the press and the public.”