Steven Barnett speaks to The Tablet about the increasing collusion between the government and the press
Professor Steven Barnett has spoken with Julia Langdon for an article on collusion between the government and the press, published by The Tablet. The article explores the ways in which the press has helped politicians, and especially Boris Johnson, to hold power, hide damaging stories and to control the way the population view their leadership. In the article, Barnett notes that this is not just a single newspaper in the UK who are responsible, but rather a wide section of the press. “If it was just one newspaper, that would allow a genuine plurality” he said, “but the Telegraph, The Sun and the Express newspapers are also playing along with the government’s game. They may not do so as overtly as the Mail, but by distracting public opinion with alternative news stories – the “Wagatha Christie” libel case was a gift – instead of setting out the political facts and inviting their readers to form their own opinion, they are in effect failing to call reprehensible behaviour by the prime minister to account. Any previous government would have been forced out of office by the presentation of the facts”.
Langdon goes on to share further insights from Barnett, including that the broadcast media also play a significant role in this. The broadcast media “take their cue from the newspapers, even though the days of mass newspaper circulation are long over,” says Barnett. With newspapers “deliberately playing down the prime minister’s problems, it becomes harder for television and radio journalists to claim that there is still a story there to include on the evening bulletins. Harder still for the BBC in particular, which faces relentless government criticism as it is”.