BBC stops airing Nicola Sturgeon press conferences weeks before Boris Johnson televised press briefings start

PUBLISHED: 15:21 14 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 14 September 2020

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at a news conference. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at a news conference. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The BBC has sparked a backlash after it cancelled airing Nicola Sturgeon’s daily press conferences weeks before Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer’s televised press briefings begin.

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BBC One in Scotland has aired the Scottish first minister’s daily coronavirus briefings, much like the English version did so with Boris Johnson’s Downing Street sessions, since the start of the pandemic.

But following claims from opposition politicians that it was airing party political broadcasts on behalf of the SNP, the BBC took the decision to decide each day whether to screen the briefings on “editorial merit”.

It means they will only be aired if there is a significant announcement from Sturgeon, with Bargain Hunt replacing future broadcasts.

Sturgeon said that her broadcasts were “more important than ever” as cases continue to rise in her country.


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“What is broadcast on the BBC is a matter for the BBC but we are in unique circumstances right now and the ability for me and my colleagues to communicate directly with the public has never been more important than it is right now,” she said.

Acknowledging she had made some mistakes in her broadcasts, she said: “I have always taken great care to try not to stray into political territory, I’m not saying I’ve never slipped up - I am fallible.

“But I’ve always recognised my responsibility to keep these briefings very much on topic because I want people regardless of their politics to be able to listen and hear the messages that are so important.”

The decision to stop airing the press briefings come weeks before the news channels are expected to air press briefings from Downing Street similar to those aired from the White House.

Keir Starmer has confirmed the opposition will host its own monthly session from next month.

A spokesman for the broadcaster said they will take the same attitude as the Welsh government briefings.

They explained: “We will continue to provide extensive coverage of the government press conferences across our news services, including live streaming online.

“We will of course consider showing press conferences live when any major developments or updates are anticipated.”

They added: “By way of example, Monday (14th) sees the introduction of new restrictions in Scotland and we will cover the lunchtime briefing live, on TV, on BBC One Scotland and on the BBC Scotland channel in the same way that our colleagues in Wales will be covering the Welsh government briefing that day.”

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