David Cameron’s top media adviser became the centre of attention himself yesterday when he was inadvertently caught on camera berating a BBC correspondent about a report on the Prime Minister’s relations with Rupert Murdoch.
The five-minute video of Downing Street head of communications Craig Oliver’s exchange outside Number 10 with BBC News chief political correspondent Norman Smith was posted on the Guido Fawkes website, swiftly becoming the talk of Westminster and a top trending topic on Twitter.
In it Mr Oliver – himself a former TV news reporter and editor – objects to a package on the BBC’s Six O’Clock News last Friday which featured a graphic of a spider’s web with the faces of Mr Cameron, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and News Corporation executive James Murdoch.
Apparently unaware that the cameras are rolling and his words are being picked up by a microphone, he tells Mr Smith that he has complained to his boss, BBC Westminster editor Gavin Allen, who he says has told him to expect “a much more balanced thing” on later bulletins.
Mr Oliver said he was “genuinely shocked” by the report, telling Mr Smith: “I have rarely seen such partial reporting of an event and I think Jeremy Hunt will be, rightly, deeply upset.”
Accusing the BBC correspondent of broadcasting “opinion rather than impartial reporting of the facts”, Mr Oliver told him: “Saying that the Prime Minister, simply having his name in the same headline as the Murdochs, is a problem, tells you about your mindset.”
He complained the report had not mentioned that, in a memo to Mr Cameron prior to being given quasi-judicial oversight of News Corp’s bid to take over BSkyB, Mr Hunt had said that the decision should be kept “at arm’s length” from government.
It was wrong to suggest that the Culture Minister was “lobbying” on behalf of News Corp when he sent his memo to Mr Cameron, said Mr Oliver.