Treasury warns press over 'unsubstantiated speculation'

A Treasury minister has praised the media for “high quality” coverage of the financial markets – but has warned that “unsubstantiated speculation” could undermine stability.

Exchequer secretary Angela Eagle was responding to a parliamentary question from John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, who has been highly critical of the BBC’s coverage of the economic crisis.

Eagle said: “I follow media reporting on the markets with interest. It is routinely of a high quality.

“I hope all commentators, whether from the financial markets or from the general media, will continue to report responsibly, and bear in mind that unsubstantiated speculation has the potential to undermine financial stability and harm savers and depositors.”

In a Commons motion tabled last month, Pugh noted the “readiness of the BBC, with its significant global reach, to further dramatise, accentuate and underline economic woes” and contrasted this with what he claimed was the approach of local “community-based media”.

He urged the “commissioning of academic research on the influence of media reporting on the fragile psychology of the City and, more importantly, on the real jobs of ordinary people.”

BBC business editor Robert Peston last month denied that he was responsible for the run on Northern Rock during a grilling by MPs on the treasury select committee.

Peston said: “What led to the collapse of Northern Rock was not the retail run, it was the wholesale run, institutions refusing to fund this bank.”

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