Every UK national news broadcaster has signed a letter of complaint sent to the Prime Minister’s top PR man to complain about Theresa May’s lack of availability for TV interviews during the Conservative Party Conference after she snubbed both Channel 4 News and 5 News.
The Prime Minister has given interviews to all other national broadcasters during the party conference in Birmingham, which started on Sunday and ends tomorrow.
Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow said on Twitter that it was the first time in 29 years reporting from political party conferences for the broadcaster that he hadn’t interviewed the leader of the party.
Ben de Pear, editor of Channel 4 News, said in a tweet that it set a “dangerous precedent”.
Five News political editor Andy Bell said he was “very disappointed that for the first time in too many years to count @5_News (along with @Channel4News) have been refused an interview with PM at conference”.
Broadcasters wrote to May’s director of communications, Robbie Gibb, to “formally complain about the unprecedented circumstances surrounding interviews with the Prime Minster at the Conservative Party Conference”.
The letter was signed by De Pear, Channel 5 News acting editor Jess Bulman, BBC News head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro, ITV News acting editor Rachel Corp, Sky News director of newsgathering Jonathan Levy and ITN chief executive John Hardie.
They said: “For a functioning democracy it is vital that in turn the politicians and in particular the leaders and even Prime Ministers are also questioned and held to account in one-to-one interviews.
“As public service broadcasters we are required by licence to produce high-quality, impartial and accurate news and analysis. If we interview the other party leaders at the conferences we are required for balance to interview every party leader…
“We have already seen attempts to exclude some journalistic organisations in America from press conferences, attempts which were resisted by the solidarity of the broadcasters who refused to allow it.
“We hope you will take this into consideration and make the Prime Minister available for interview with all the UK’s national broadcasters.”
Gibb is a former head of BBC Westminster and editor of the Daily and Sunday Politics shows who joined May’s team last year. He has been accused of only giving interviews to his former colleagues.
But, he has hit out at the criticism, saying May has in fact done 36 interviews at the conference.
He said this included:
- 16 regional BBC interviews
- 12 regional ITV interviews
- The Andrew Marr Show
- Sit down interviews with Laura Kuenssberg, Robert Peston and Faisal Islam
- LBC Nick Ferrari
- Sky News radio
- Today programme
- BBC Breakfast
- And a pool clip available to all broadcasters
He added: “It is not possible for the Prime Minister to accept interview bids from every programme. However the BBC, Sky and ITN have had many opportunities throughout this week to cross examine the Prime Minister. We make other senior ministers available more widely.
“The idea that any broadcasters have been excluded is particularly erroneous. Last week Gary Gibbon at Channel 4 News interviewed the Prime Minister in New York. At the start of the summer Andy Bell at Channel 5 News had a long sit down with the Prime Minister in Downing Street.
“This evening the BBC, Sky and ITV will be running interviews with the Prime Minister from Conservative Conference.
“Could you let me know how many interviews Jeremy Corbyn carried out during the Labour conference last week and whether you have written a similar joint letter?”
Press Gazette understands Corbyn did not refuse any interviews with UK national news broadcasters at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool last week, although at last year’s party conference he snubbed interviews with national and regional BBC news programmes, as Press Gazette reported.
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville