An ITV Wales journalist turned down the chance to quiz Boris Johnson on his first visit to Wales as Prime Minister after media restrictions meant the reporter was not allowed to film the answers to his questions.
Welsh-based journalists were barred from broadcasting any video or audio from a “huddle” with the PM, who was pictured posing with chickens at a farm in Newport. No one-on-one interviews were offered.
Johnson’s visit had a standard pool arrangement in which a network camera – in this case ITV – was allowed to film and one journalist asked questions, with the footage to be shared with other news outlets.
ITV Wales political editor Adrian Masters shared his frustration on Twitter.
“We as Welsh media were invited to ask questions as part of a ‘huddle’ but on arrival it turned out we wouldn’t be allowed to film it,” he said.
“So I’m invited to ask a question but can’t record it on camera and so can’t include it in my report on tonight’s ITV Wales news. The clip in my report therefore will be a ‘pool’ clip, collected by colleagues at ITV network and shared.”
Masters added: “I hate to have turned down the chance to challenge Boris Johnson but I wouldn’t have been able to broadcast any of it. I’d have had to read quotes to the audience tonight.”
.@adrianmasters84 is on the farm where Boris Johnson is visiting in Newport. He has been told any questions by Welsh media to the prime minister could not be filmed. Full thread: https://t.co/ZLMkKfozOK https://t.co/CS47EXYUfL pic.twitter.com/Pb0CrAg7Nh
— ITV Wales News (@ITVWales) July 30, 2019
In a video shared online, Masters said Johnson was “doing an interview with a national network that will be shared all over the UK, but for ITV Wales what we were offered was the chance to ask him some questions but no chance to film it.
“Well what’s the point in that? I can’t show you that. So I’ve refused that offer.”
Among the other journalists present were Global journalist Daniel Bevan, reporting for LBC and Heart Wales, BBC Wales News political editor Felicity Evans, and Wales Online political editor Ruth Mosalski.
Evans confirmed both BBC Wales and ITV Wales were “refused the opportunity to ask [Johnson] a single question on camera”.
And Bevan tweeted: “Sadly, my first ever op with a PM didn’t go as planned.
“Told that I only had one question and no audio collected from the huddle was allowed to be broadcast. Only after persuading were print journos allowed to record for transcription.
“I was then told to join the network pool (which is not something I’ve ever had to ask to do before) but was not allowed to ask any questions.”
The NUJ’s Welsh Executive Committee condemned the way the visit was run, saying Johnson should have allowed recording for broadcast.
“Correspondents from Welsh broadcasters and newspapers, which require video of interviews for their websites, have different questions to ask than correspondents from London-based media,” the committee said.
“If the Prime Minister restricts himself to a single clip for the network pool, plus a brief off-camera ‘huddle’ with journalists, then essentially the Welsh media is being asked to cover a publicity stunt without the chance to question him.
“Journalists must be able to hold our elected representatives to account on behalf of the public and the Prime Minister’s answers must be publicly available.”
A spokesperson for No 10: “The PM did a huddle with regional journalists and he gave six questions on camera and a pooled media opportunity.”
Belfast News Letter political editor Sam McBride, also the i’s Northern Ireland political editor, has since criticised a further lack of opportunity for journalists to quiz Johnson on his visit to Belfast today.
McBride tweeted: “Ex-journalist Boris Johnson will not be holding a press conference in Belfast to answer journalists’ questions.
“I understood yesterday that consideration was being given to a press conference. Even when under enormous pressure, Theresa May took media questions in Northern Ireland.
“The PM at least held some sort of press conference in Wales yesterday, even if the broadcast rules were decidedly odd. Johnson is soaring in the polls but there’s a danger he repeats Theresa May’s 2017 election mistake of being seen to hide from scrutiny.”
Picture: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire