THE MEDIA UNSPUN COLUMN BY ALLAN RENNIE

MEDIA WEEK: LIES, DAMNED LIES AND NO10’S OFF-THE-RECORD BRIEFINGS

27 October 2019|Media Week
The Mail on Sunday splash which Oborne branded a fake
The Mail on Sunday splash which Oborne branded a fake

Peter Oborne quit his weekly Daily Mail column with a blast at lobby journalists who he accused of “peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears”.

In an article for Open Democracy, he said British political journalists were “chillingly close to providing the same service to Boris Johnson that Fox News delivers for Donald Trump”.

“It’s chilling. From the Mail, The Times to the BBC and ITN, everyone is peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears. They’re turning their readers into dupes.”

Oborne cited a Mail on Sunday splash: Number 10 probes Remain MPs’ foreign collusion.

A senior No10 sources was quoted in the offending article: “The government is working on extensive investigations into Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and Hilary Benn and their involvement with foreign powers and the funding of their activities. Governments have proper rules for drafting legislation, but nobody knows what organisations are pulling these strings.”

The story was followed up the next day by the Daily Express, Sun, Times and the alt-right Breitbart.

Oborne said his own call to Downing Street received the stark reply: “There is no investigation”. In other words, said Oborne, journalists were peddling No10’s fake news.

Something Mail on Sunday staff strongly deny.

Osborne slammed the practice of off-the-record briefings such as  – A Downing Street source said, a No10 insider revealed – with the main culprit Johnson aide Dominic Cummings.

“This has become a signature technique of the Johnson media machine. It makes its views known to friendly political editors, who push them without much inspection or analysis out into the public domain.”

He later Tweeted that he had not been fired by the Mail .. but hoped to write for them and other publications in the future.

Read his  full article here.

Monty enters race for The Telegraph

For sale signs at The Telegraph as the Barclay brothers prepare to cut it loose from an empire which includes The Spectator, The Ritz, Yodel and Shop Direct.

Media veteran David Montgomery has thrown his hat in the ring after his fledgling National World missed out on buying Scotsman publishers JPI Media.

The former Mirror Group CEO told the FT: “Of course we are interested.” Asked about the price tag – the Barclays paid £665million in 2004 – he added: “It’s too early to make an estimate.”

Other front runners could include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Daily Mail publishers DMG Media and Independent and Evening Standard, owner Evgeny Lebedev.

The Telegraph reported a 94 per cent drop in profits for the last year to £900,000 citing digital ad competition and an investment in more journalism.

Insiders claim the Barclays are in “no hurry” and the sale process could take up to 18 months.

Zuck’s Trump card 

Mark Zuckerberg cosying up to Trump knows no bounds with the inclusion of The President’s cheerleader in chief Breitbart as a partner in Facebook News.

Facebook are paying publishers between $1million and $3million a year to use their stories on their new News Tab, including ex-White House aide Steve Bannon’s baby, who proclaimed it as “the platform for the alt-right”.

Facebook declined to provide a list of all media partners, although they do include The Times and The Washington Post. Zuck also declined to talk directly about Breitbart saying “I certainly think you want to include a breadth of content there”.

Is this more evidence of Facebook’s fear that an Elizabeth Warren Presidency would oversee the break-up of the platform? In Zuck’s own off-guarded words that would “suck”.

Zuckerberg’s naked self-interest. Read more here.

National treasure

National Editor Callum Baird’s star is rising. On the back of his show-stealing role in BBC documentary The Papers, he will take on the role of managing Editor of both the pro-indy paper and the Evening Times.

Under Baird, online subs to The National have eclipsed those of its bigger brother The Herald. Will he be able to work his magic on the Times, under pressure from Reach’s digital-only Glasgow Live?

Lobby jobby

The first rule of PR is not to become the story. So hardly a sparkling start to a new career for former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson who was slaughtered by even her cosiest journalist chums for taking up a £50,000 post with lobbying firm Tulchan Communications while still drawing a £65,000 MSP salary.

Davidson’s defence was that it was “all within the rules” rings hollow. You can be a legislator or lobbyist, but being both is a recipe for a conflict of interest disaster.

Bel tolls

Belfast Media Group has put itself up for sale, saying it is looking for a “progressive” buyer who can tackle declining print sales and ad revenues. BMG runs the bi-weekly Andersontown News and weeklies North Belfast News and South Belfast News

The war on journalism

Journalists killed since January: 37

United Kingdom 1, Afghanistan 4, Ghana 1, Iraq 1, Mexico 10, Honduras 2, Libya 1, Colombia 1, Pakistan 3, Chad 1, Philippines 1, Ukraine 1, Somalia 3, Yemen 1, Syria 5, Nigeria 1

Journalists In prison: 404 Sources include:Reporters Without Borders.

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