ANALYSIS: BIG QUESTION; Are spin doctors dictating the TV agenda?

Politicians and journalists at the Edinburgh TV Festival debated spin doctors’ methods

Politicians and journalists at the Edinburgh TV Festival debated spin

doctors’ methods

Michael Brunson ITN

‘I don’t have a problem with spin doctors making sure they get their

message across, although these messages can be a trifle heavy-handed. I

don’t object to them making sure what we say is accurate. It’s when they

go beyond that, when they try to influence the way we do our jobs, the

running order of a programme or the relative merit of a story. The onus

is on us as broadcasters and reporters to make sure we maintain our

independent judgment.’

Charles Kennedy Liberal Democrat Party

‘Spin doctors are only as effective as politicians allow them to be.

They perform a vital role as intermediaries, but at the end of the day,

the politician’s discretion and the journalist’s decision both have to

be independently rooted. When those distinctions become blurred, the

spin doctor has assumed too much influence.’

Mark Damazer BBC News and Current Affairs

‘They’re not influencing the agenda, although they try. Our job is to

try to resist them when we feel it’s appropriate. We should be aware

that they do provide useful and accurate information sometimes. They are

entitled to comment along with other people on the quality of our work,

but they should not do this in a way which prevents producers from

getting on with it. If we happen to broadcast something which they don’t

like that’s part of our job and probably means we’re doing it right.’

Brian Wilson The Labour Party

‘The Trevor McDonald interview with Major reminded us of how pressure on

TV editors can be effective. It was the most spectacular recent example

of the news agenda being politically distorted. In the run up to the

election, there will be an escalation of that pressure. Although

Labour’s media people get more coverage, it’s the Tories who have the

machinery of government behind them, and they use it ruthlessly. Labour

asks for no more than to get a fair crack of the whip, both in the

election and in the news agenda. This requires vigilance.’

Michael White The Guardian

‘No they do not dictate the agenda although most of it does come from

market research and focus groups. Spin doctors are really spin policemen

who patrol the message and try to keep the media on the straight and


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