PM Johnson picks journalist-turned-adviser to front televised briefings

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has picked journalist-turned-government adviser Allegra Stratton to front his government’s new daily televised media briefings, the BBC reported on Thursday.

The government announced earlier this year it wanted to put question and answer sessions with journalists on camera, shifting away from Westminster’s behind-closed-doors briefings to a U.S. White House-style format.

Stratton, who works as finance minister Rishi Sunak’s communications chief, was appointed after a recruitment process which set out to find someone who could “communicate with the nation on behalf of the Prime Minister”.

Prior to her role at the finance ministry, Stratton had worked as a television and newspaper political reporter and editor.

The regular question and answer sessions between U.S. reporters and White House officials have - particularly at times during president Donald Trump’s presidency - resulted in some awkward and hostile tussles.

In Britain, television cameras have hitherto been banned from the twice-daily meetings between reporters based in parliament and the prime minister’s spokesman, at which questions on any subject can be asked.

Over the last six months, the coronavirus pandemic has forced these briefings to take place by conference call, complete with crackly connections and participants forgetting to both mute and unmute.

The shift to televised briefings is seen by Johnson as a way to offer viewers a more direct engagement with those in power. The exact format of the briefings has not been set out.

During the pandemic, Johnson, his ministers and public health officials held daily news conferences which, at their peak, drew tens of millions of viewers.

Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison