UK looks to the White House with plan to televise press briefings

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LONDON — Boris Johnson’s government plans to shake up the U.K.’s system for briefing the press and introduce White House-style televised briefings from Downing Street.

Before the coronavirus lockdown, journalists would attend two briefings from the No. 10 spokesman behind closed doors each day, but the afternoon meeting is set to be beamed to the nation with an experienced broadcaster at the helm, as first reported by the Times and the FT and confirmed by POLITICO’s London Playbook. The plan is set to come into force in October, with Johnson set to hire a host and a team of producers in the coming weeks.

The plan was devised by Downing Street Director of Communications Lee Cain, based on the success of the coronavirus daily press briefings, which were introduced in March and viewed by nearly 10 million people a day at the peak of the crisis. Johnson hopes that more direct communication with the public will “introduce a culture of transparency and openness” in Westminster, according to an aide.

Asked about the plan in an interview with LBC radio on Friday, Johnson said the public has liked “seeing what is going on” and wants “direct engagement and stuff from us.”

However, the coronavirus briefings faced criticism for not providing enough clarity. “Is there really any point to these daily news conferences?” asked the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon in early April. “This evening, all they got was 24 minutes of the most pitiful, dispiriting waffle.”

Journalists working elsewhere in the world also questioned how much transparency television cameras would bring.

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