George Eustice, Tory MP, Says Political Journalists 'Undermine Trust' In Politics

Tory MP Complains Broadcast Media Is Too Aggressive With Politicians

David Cameron's former press secretary, Camborne and Redruth MP George Eustice, has attacked broadcast media for "undermining public trust" in politics by being too aggressive with politicians.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Eustice said political parties should be allowed to air more frequent party political broadcasts in order to speak directly to voters without having their words misinterpreted and over analysed by journalists.

"Broadcasters have duty to impartially enshrined in the Broadcasting Act, however the framework under which they operate does create a particular character of journalism," he said.

"It does require them, by balancing both sides, to come up with, often, very anodyne reports which don't necessarily hep the public reach an opinion."

Eustice, who is one of the most vocal Tory supporters of the Leveson proposals for the statuary underpinning of independent press regulation, served as Cameron's press secretary between 2005 and 2008. He was also head of press under Michael Howard's leadership of the Tories.

Now a Tory MP himself, Eustice attacked the way TV news broadcasters such as the BBC and Sky News used their political journalists to explain to the viewers what politicians were saying - rather than just letting the MP speak for themselves.

"It does mean there is an emphasis on the two-way with the political correspondent, while the party leader who has just given a speech may be given 12 to 18 seconds to say what it is they are trying to do with a particular speech, there will then be plenty of time for a one or two minute two-way with the correspondent where they try and interpret or put a gloss on what a party leader is supposedly saying," he said.

"That has led to what I think is an over emphasis on process and political strategy," he said. "Rather than giving politicians the credit for what they are doing, which is saying what it is they actually believe."

Politician's words, Eustice said, were "always interpreted through the prism of political strategy which undermines public trust in the political process".

"There is a tendency to have very hostile interview scenarios where you almost have a duel between the interviewer and the politician, where the objective from the programme's point of view is to make the politician evasive and on the back foot," he added.

Eustice said the law should be changed to allow political parties more chance to speak directly to voters.

"It is now OK to have advertising for toys to children at maybe 6.30 or 7.00 in the morning, but we can't possibly tolerate the idea of advertising political ideas to grown adults. We need to challenge this idea," he said.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey acknowledged that political broadcasts enabled parties to put their view across without the "gloss of a BBC political editor".

However Vaizey said he did not want to "risk undermining the impartiality of British TV" by changing the rules governing political broadcasting.


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