BBC and ITV join boycott of Bristol mayor briefings after local democracy reporters barred
The BBC and ITV have confirmed they will join a boycott of press briefings by the mayor of Bristol after local democracy reporters were told they were no welcome to attend.
Local publishers including Reach, National World and Bristol 24/7 said they would not attend mayor Marvin Rees’s fortnightly briefings after BBC-funded local democracy reporters, who covers council affairs for publishers across the UK, were told they were banned.
Both the BBC and ITV have now confirmed they will join the boycott, while The Bristol Cable, an independent investigative news operation in the city, have revealed the mayor’s office had previously banned them anyway.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We are deeply disappointed by the decision taken by the Mayor’s Office to not allow the Bristol LDR into his fortnightly press conference.
“It is an essential ingredient of local democracy that journalists should be able to ask robust, challenging questions to people in power.
“We have today informed the Mayor that the BBC won’t be attending the fortnightly Mayoral briefings until this important issue is resolved.”
ITV West Country has joined other media organisations in deciding not to attend or cover any of the mayoral briefings until this ban is lifted.
Ian Axton, Head of News at ITV West Country said “ ITV News West Country stands by other media organisations on this issue.
“We will not attend the fortnightly press briefings held by the Mayor until the exclusion of Local Democracy Reporters is lifted. “
The ban followed a bizarre mayoral briefing in which local democracy reporter Alex Seabrooke was taken to task by Saskia Konyenburg, a communications boss at the council, for asking the Mayor about his controversial 4,900-mile air trip to Vancouver to deliver a 15-minute talk about climate change.
In a video clip viewed more than 250,000 times on social media this week, Ms Konyenburg argued she believed the question was not in the scope of the Local Democracy Reporter Scheme, which is funded by the BBC to report on the activities of councils and public bodies around the country.
The BBC, which runs the scheme, has insisted it is right for an LDR to ask the mayor questions like this.
However, Bristol City Council has now said LDRs are no longer welcome at its mayoral briefings.
Quite who is left to attend remains to be seen, now that two major broadcasters and the best-read online news outlets in the city have all said they won’t be attending.
Mayor Rees is due to leave post at the end of 2024 after the city voted in May to abolish the role of elected mayor in a public poll.