Blair blasts media


Summary

With just a fortnight of his premiership left, Mr Blair delivered a valedictory warning that the pursuit of controversy above accurate news is undermining politicians’ “capacity to take the right decisions”.

He said the “unravelling of standards” towards “sensation above all else” was a result of increasing diversity and competition in the media following the advent of the internet and rolling news.

The prime minister did acknowledge that he was “complicit” in the problem for placing an “inordinate” emphasis on spin in the early days of New Labour.

However, his comments were immediately condemned as hypocritical by political opponents – who also warned against tightening regulation on the press.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Don Foster said: “It’s easy to blame the press for a loss of trust in politicians. A fairer analysis would point to his own culture of spin.”

In the speech to journalists in central London, Mr Blair said: “I do believe this relationship between public life and media is now damaged in a manner that requires repair.”

Pressure for scoops

Mr Blair claimed there was less balance in journalism now than 10 years ago.

He said the traditional media was taking on an increasingly “shrill tenor” because reporters were under pressure to bring in exclusives and expose wrongdoing rather than provide facts.

Fear of being scooped is also driving the press pack to operate like a “feral beast”, he insisted.

“The fear of missing out means today’s media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack,” Blair said. “In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations apart.”

‘Blogs not helping’

Mr Blair said he used to think the internet would allow more direct and better communication between politicians and the public.

However, the emergence of aggressive blogs and websites had proved him wrong.

The PM insisted he had tried to encourage openness through measures such as on-the-record lobby briefings, monthly press conferences and the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Blair said people in public life – from politics to the military, business and sport – found a “vast aspect” of their job now was coping with the “constant hyperactivity” of the media.

Mr Blair suggested there would have to be a review of regulation soon because the nature of the media had changed drastically.

He said reforming the system is not a matter for him, but “the importance of accuracy will not diminish, while the freedom to comment remains”.

Mr Foster said Mr Blair had been the “prime cause” of declining trust in politicians over the past decade.

“Hints at the need for increased regulation of the press are deeply worrying,” he added.

“Politicians may not like what is sometimes written about them, but a free press is the best safeguard for accountability and against corruption and hypocrisy,” he said.


With just a fortnight of his premiership left, Mr Blair delivered a valedictory warning that the pursuit of controversy above accurate news is undermining politicians’ “capacity to take the right decisions”.

He said the “unravelling of standards” towards “sensation above all else” was a result of increasing diversity and competition in the media following the advent of the internet and rolling news.

The prime minister did acknowledge that he was “complicit” in the problem for placing an “inordinate” emphasis on spin in the early days of New Labour.

However, his comments were immediately condemned as hypocritical by political opponents – who also warned against tightening regulation on the press.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Don Foster said: “It’s easy to blame the press for a loss of trust in politicians. A fairer analysis would point to his own culture of spin.”

In the speech to journalists in central London, Mr Blair said: “I do believe this relationship between public life and media is now damaged in a manner that requires repair.”

Pressure for scoops

Mr Blair claimed there was less balance in journalism now than 10 years ago.

He said the traditional media was taking on an increasingly “shrill tenor” because reporters were under pressure to bring in exclusives and expose wrongdoing rather than provide facts.

Fear of being scooped is also driving the press pack to operate like a “feral beast”, he insisted.

“The fear of missing out means today’s media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack,” Blair said. “In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations apart.”

‘Blogs not helping’

Mr Blair said he used to think the internet would allow more direct and better communication between politicians and the public.

However, the emergence of aggressive blogs and websites had proved him wrong.

The PM insisted he had tried to encourage openness through measures such as on-the-record lobby briefings, monthly press conferences and the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Blair said people in public life – from politics to the military, business and sport – found a “vast aspect” of their job now was coping with the “constant hyperactivity” of the media.

Mr Blair suggested there would have to be a review of regulation soon because the nature of the media had changed drastically.

He said reforming the system is not a matter for him, but “the importance of accuracy will not diminish, while the freedom to comment remains”.

Mr Foster said Mr Blair had been the “prime cause” of declining trust in politicians over the past decade.

“Hints at the need for increased regulation of the press are deeply worrying,” he added.

“Politicians may not like what is sometimes written about them, but a free press is the best safeguard for accountability and against corruption and hypocrisy,” he said.