The Government’s new White House-style TV briefings are going to be fronted by a “political appointee” as opposed to a civil servant, Downing Street has said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed that new televised briefings are going to be introduced “later this year”, although a presenter has not yet been recruited.
The Government is thought to be looking for an experienced broadcaster to front the new question-and-answer sessions.
It will replace off-camera afternoon briefings for journalists, which are currently hosted by a senior civil servant.
The move is expected to prove controversial and concerns have been raised about a reduction in scrutiny of Government.
Chair of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Pippa Crerar and Chair of the Lobby Jason Groves said: “We have read the reports about proposed changes with interest and hope the intention is to increase scrutiny and accountability.
“We would not wish to see any changes used as an excuse to reduce transparency by, for example, reducing the number of daily briefings, limiting questions, those who can ask them, or our on-the-record access to ministers.“
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, warned: “Briefings that are too stage-managed and favour the few will not be in the best interests of the public as a whole.”
It also comes amidst reports that Downing Street is preparing a major overhaul government communications as a part of Dominic Cummings’ drive to reform Whitehall.
Communications will soon be managed by the Cabinet Office instead of individual departments, with a significant reduction in the number of press officers expected.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The new televised afternoon briefing, the person who takes that will be a political appointment.
“What that will allow them to do is answer political questions in a way I’m not.
“It will obviously be for the PM and my political colleagues to determine who they want to appoint.”
No 10 will still hold an off-camera lobby briefing in the morning hosted by the prime minister’s official spokesman.
The broadcasts are expected to start in October and the spokesman confirmed work would begin shortly to make Number 9 TV-ready.
The move was announced after the Government scrapped the daily briefings last week but pledged to hold them to “coincide with significant announcements”.
Boris Johnson told LBC today: “People have liked a more direct, detailed information from the Government about what is going on – and I think that they’ve actually particularly liked our brilliant scientific and medical advisers, possibly more than the politicians to be frank.
“We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us, and so we’re going to have a go at that.”