UK

Sky News Complains About Access To Theresa May's Cabinet As Tory Manifesto Released

May's advisers accused of 'blocking' broadcaster.

18/05/2017 13:10 BST
PA
Sky News has complained about the access it has got to Conservative Cabinet ministers; the broadcaster's editor-at-large, Adam Boulton, is pictured above

Sky News has complained about the access it is getting to Conservative ministers in the run up to the General Election, which follows a spat between the broadcaster and Theresa May’s team ignited on the very day she announced the snap vote.  

In a statement on Thursday, as the Prime Minister revealed the Tory Manifesto, a Sky News spokesperson said: “Since early in the election campaign, Sky News has not been getting live interviews on election issues with Conservative ministers.

“Also, we weren’t initially invited to follow the leader’s tour. We understand this to be because members of the Prime Minister’s team are unhappy with aspects of our political coverage. Sky News stands by its journalism and is committed to fair, impartial and accurate reporting of all the political parties.”

The statement was tweeted by Guardian political editor Anushka Asthana, who earlier wrote in a separate post that Sky’s editor-at-large, Adam Boulton, had said May’s “advisers are blocking Sky News from interviewing Cabinet ministers”.

Phil Noble / Reuters
Prime Minister Theresa May launched her election manifesto in Halifax on Thursday

Seconds before May stunned Westminster on April 18 by announcing a snap election, Boulton, who was fronting Sky’s coverage of the event, speculated that the PM’s health could be the reason for her unscheduled statement outside 10 Downing Street. 

This prompted a text from May’s chief of staff Fiona Hill: “You might want to tell Bunter [Boulton’s nickname] that he should watch what he is saying about my boss’s health, utterly unfounded and untrue.

“We will be making a formal complaint to John Riley [the head of Sky News].”

After receiving the text, the ‘All Out Politics’ presenter tweeted: “Charming message from Fiona Hill”.

After reporting the missive, Boulton told viewers: “All I said was there has been speculation about Mrs May’s health, she may want to step down.

“I think we can probably take that as denial from Downing Street, which means if it is not a statement about Mrs May’s health it’s presumably more than likely we will have an early general election.”

A day after May’s announcement her team had not followed through with their threat to formally complain to Sky News.

May has spoken previously about her battle with Type 1 diabetes, but has been clear the condition does not affect her work.

Francois Lenoir / Reuters
It has been suggested that Sky's relationship with May's team further soured after they reported that Boris Johnson was being kept out of the spotlight during the election campaign

The complaint statement was later released by Sky News to other media outlets. 

Buzzfeed quoted a source saying Sky News had also not received advance previews of the Conservatives’ manifesto launch, a courtesy it said had been afforded to some “friendly newspapers”. 

A source at Sky News also reportedly told the Business Insider that it had attempted to resolve the matter behind the scenes, as is normal when such disputes arise, but viewers had begun to notice that it was not getting the same level of access as other broadcasters.

Another incident that may have dented Sky’s relationship with Downing Street, Buzzfeed speculated, was Beth Rigby’s report claiming Boris Johnson was being kept out of the spotlight on the campaign trail because he was considered a liability.

The Conservatives are yet to respond to Sky’s public complaint.