Wednesday 2 February 2011

Why Craig Oliver is the new Downing Street director of communications

There are some strange things being written as a result of the announcement today of the appointment of Craig Oliver to the position of Downing Street director of communications.

The main - and probably most frequently reported - error is the assumption the media team (civil servants as well as SpAds) in Downing Street don't 'get' broadcast. This is simply untrue. The Conservative Party has consistently wiped the floor with Labour and the Lib Dems on broadcast coverage throughout Cameron's leadership. While The Guardian's Nick Watt bizarrely reports that Andy Coulson's great achievement was circumventing the newspapers by briefing directly to the 10 o'clock news - it wasn't, Andy did many far greater things - this was actually a practice introduced by George Eustice back in 2005. 

It is unfathomable for a modern media team not to 'get' broadcast and, as we consistently see with the fantastic pictures of Cameron, Liz Sugg and Michael Salter definitely do 'get' broadcast.

So why go for a broadcast journalist? It isn't the format Craig Oliver has worked in that matters, it is the position he held that is the reason Andy Coulson approached him to fill his hot seat. A Downing Street director of communications needs to take a holistic approach, appreciate the demands of the modern news stream, know what makes a story and what doesn't, be able to see the interdependency of events and keep a cool head. They need to have that rare gift that few in journalism do, the gift of being able to edit. To be shut out the noise of events and concentrate on what matters.  

This is why he was chosen, as an editor of the BBC 6 and 10 news he needed all of these skills just as Andy Coulson did editing the News of the World.

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