The assembly this Monday published its report into how the public sector responded to the attacks. It cited various ways that the Met – which takes the lead on communicating with the public and media in the event of a major incident in London – could be improved.
The report flagged up concern over the Met’s treatment of journalists on 7/7, and highlighted the importance of the media’s role as public information providers. Committee chairman Richard Barnes told PRWeek: ‘The newspapers knew about casualties before the police would confirm anything.’
This gap between the media getting information and the Met confirming it, resulted in a loss of credibility in official information, Barnes warned.
The media centre at the QE2 Conference Centre opened at 3pm on the day of the terror attacks, but closed at 6pm, sparking frustration from print journalists, according to the report. The Met told PRWeek it consulted broadcast journalists on whether or not they wanted the centre open.
‘If the Met only recognises the broadcast media and not people who have to file copy, then God help us,’ Barnes responded. The report also pointed to ‘an apparent lack of trust’ in the media by both Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair and the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.
Met PA director Dick Fedorcio responded: ‘Sir Ian Blair recognises the important role that the media has to play in events, and he did so last July. Many journalists have praised our efforts in the work we did on 7/7.’ He added that to criticise the media centre’s 6pm closing was a ‘little unfair’.
Further recommendations in the report include communicating instructions to the public every hour – even if there is no change in circumstances.
More generally, the report praised the wider efforts of the public services for their handling of 7/7.
Key report findings for PROs
- Emergency Response Media Unit should be open 24/7
- Media should be involved as fully as possible in emergency planning processes and exercises
- Comms should be localised within an hour of event
- A standardised emergency comms toolkit should be provided for the capital’s local authorities.
The Met’s reaction
The Metropolitan Police director of public affairs Dick Fedorcio: ‘What people expect from the police is accurate information – not speculation. But I agree that the public need as much advice as we can give as quickly as possible. We accept more can be done and will take on board the comments in the report.
‘We are forever having to balance the demands of the media with the expectations of the public, with the resources that we have.’