LONDON: Outgoing UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's latest valedictory speech lambasting the British media has drawn sharp reaction from the objects of his ire. Blair spoke at the Reuters offices in the UK capital where he acknowledged the pressure on traditional media as it competes with the rise of online news and information.
He complained, however, that 24/7 coverage had turned the media into "feral beasts" and he urged self-examination of its actions and a possible increase in regulation.
Blair (pictured) said: "The audience needs to be arrested, held and their emotions engaged. Something that is interesting is less powerful than something that makes you angry or shocked."
The consequences of such pressures, he opined, are that scandal or controversy beats ordinary reporting "hands down" and that news is rarely news unless it "generates heat as much as or more than light".
Leading industry commentators, however, say the PM, who hands over power to Gordon Brown in less than two weeks, was happy to court television, newspapers and radio as long as they were giving him an easy ride.
But his government's increasing use of 'spin' to manipulate news (which he admitted) soured the relationship. What he pointedly failed to mention, say commentators, was that the relationship worsened when the media criticized the UK's involvement in the build-up to the Iraq conflict and its consequences.
Comments Matthew D'Ancona, editor of right-leaning weekly The Spectator: "New Labour was very happy to tango with the media until it went wrong . . . I don't think the proliferation of new media is bad for politics: quite the opposite. It may be bad for the present government, but that's not the same thing."
Adds Trevor Kavanagh, assistant editor of News Corporation's red-top tabloid The Sun: "He's sowed the seeds for a change in media regulation which is not government policy at the moment. That's very worrying. The media, whatever its flaws, needs to be free. If we can't be belligerent now and then, we aren't doing our jobs."
Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK) and MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff