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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Press reaction: Blair on the media
Independent front page
The Independent hits back on its front page
Tony Blair predicted his speech criticising the media would not get a good reception from the press - and he was right.

The prime minister gets some credit in Wednesday morning's newspapers for his point about the voracious appetite of the 24-hour news media.

But the general tone of the coverage - across broadsheets and tabloids - is critical.

There is particular anger about Mr Blair's suggestion that statutory regulation may be needed - and widespread incredulity that he should be complaining about media manipulation, even if he accepted part of the blame.

"Labour cannot hail 9/11 as a 'good day to bury bad news' and then accuse the media of manipulation," says the Sun in an editorial.

It concludes: "Politicians who complain about the media are like sailors who moan about the weather. We can dish it out and we can take it. But what worries us about the PM's speech was his threat to shackle the media.

"It should worry everyone who believes true democracy cannot exist without a free press."

Kevin Maguire, writing in the Daily Mirror, says: "Tony Blair took Britain to war in Iraq on a lie, blocked an arms bribery inquiry and was addicted to spin. No more sour lectures, thank you, Prime Minister".

'Self-serving'

Stephen Glover, in the Daily Mail, writes of Mr Blair's "magnificent self- delusion".

If the al-Yamamah case ever comes within sight of justice, it will be no thanks to an honest prime minister, an alert cabinet, a Wilberforce-style MP, a government auditor, a policeman or a lobbyist. It will be thanks to a muck-raking media, described yesterday by Tony Blair as a 'feral beast' of cynicism
Simon Jenkins
Guardian

He says the prime minister had a point when he spoke about the demands of the 24-hour media environment and the increasing cynicism of the press.

"The trouble is that it was delivered by Mr Blair. Coming from him, it sounds more than slightly batty and self-serving," he writes, saying Mr Blair enjoyed an unusually good press for much of his time in power.

This state of affairs might have continued had it not been for the Iraq war, writes Mr Glover - a point taken up by the Independent, the only newspaper to be named by Mr Blair in his speech.

The prime minister criticised the paper for lacking balance, saying "it was started as an antidote to the idea of journalism as views, not news. That was why it was called the Independent. Today it is avowedly a viewspaper".

'Ideals'

The Independent's editor Simon Kelner replies in a front page editorial, which asks: "Would you be saying this, Mr Blair, if we supported your war in Iraq?"

"We are unabashed about the way in which The Independent has evolved, although we would point out that this newspaper was not established as an antidote to the idea of journalism as views, but as an antidote to proprietorial influence and narrow political allegiance."

He argues that the paper abides by its founding ideals, respects the privacy of people in public life and the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) codes.

"But after 10 years of the Blair administration, a decade of spin and counter-spin and dodgy dossiers, of 45-minute warnings, of burying bad news, of manipulation and misinformation, we feel that the need to interpret and comment on the official version of events is more important than ever."

And he adds: "What clearly rankles with Mr Blair is not that we campaign vociferously on certain issues, but that he doesn't agree with our stance."

'Feral beast'

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says the recent expose of secret payments by BAE systems to a Saudi prince, by his newspaper and the BBC's Panorama, shows the value of the free British press.

The press should be more willing to admit that most politicians enter public life out of a sincere desire to improve the lives of their fellow citizens
The Times

"If the al-Yamamah case ever comes within sight of justice, it will be no thanks to an honest prime minister, an alert cabinet, a Wilberforce-style MP, a government auditor, a policeman or a lobbyist. It will be thanks to a muck-raking media, described yesterday by Tony Blair as a 'feral beast' of cynicism," he writes.

Times sketch writer Ann Treneman, who has swapped her normal by-line picture for a snap of a werewolf, is thrilled by her new "feral" identity.

"How exciting is that? I stopped taking notes for a minute. Indeed I am not sure that feral beasts have to take notes. Why bother with fiddly notebooks, when you can roam round, foaming at the mouth, mauling wildebeests and reputations?" she writes.

In its leader column, the Times says that although Mr Blair "protests too much" about the media's treatment of his own party, his wider critique "has much to recommend it".

'Viewspapers'

The modern 24-hour media can "lead to a collective stampede that is frequently an unattractive spectacle," it argues, adding "the press should be more willing to admit that most politicians enter public life out of a sincere desire to improve the lives of their fellow citizens and that they often have to make decisions with less time and less information than they would wish. None of us is perfect in that respect".

It also takes a thinly-disguised swipe at its rival, The Independent, saying: "The tendency of some so-called newspapers to act as viewspapers would have profoundly negative aspects if universally followed".

It adds: "Journalists are right to hold politicians and companies to account, but journalists should not be afraid of being held to account themselves".

The Daily Telegraph mounts a defence of the freedom of the press and its own reporting, insisting it never blurs fact and comment either in print or online.

This, the newspaper argues in an editorial, makes a mockery of Mr Blair's argument that statutory control is needed because "technology blurs the distinction between papers and television".

"He ignores the point that if people don't like a particular newspaper they need not buy it. He cannot be so naive as to imagine that putting newspapers under statutory regulation will do anything other than make them, eventually, obedient to the government of the day," the paper says.




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