The sheer volume of reports from such a broad swathe of the news media is noteworthy, putting the press on a collision course with a prime minister who has frequently sparred with reporters and previously refused to participate in a major televised election debate.
“It was pretty remarkable to see both the BBC and ITV go out on such a limb about this, they’ve never done that before,” said Suzanne Franks, a journalism professor at City University of London.
For the BBC in particular to have taken such a step, which has the potential to be “damaging and controversial,” indicates the high degree of confidence they have in their sources, Franks added. “The BBC are so terrified at the moment about upsetting the government.”
The public service broadcaster’s primary source of revenue — fees collected from viewers — is under constant threat of being cut or scrapped by the government.
‘Boris On The Ropes,’ was The Daily Mail’s front page headline on Tuesday. The unusually critical lead story in a newspaper ordinarily supportive of the Conservative government was likened to Fox News challenging the Republican Party in the United States.
Charlie Beckett, the director of Polis, a media think tank at the London School of Economics, said the episode would test Johnson’s ability to brush off damaging stories and accusations that he’s been untruthful.
“[Johnson] operates on a kind of Trumpian basis,” Beckett, a former BBC journalist, told CNN Business. “It doesn’t matter quite exactly what I say because I’m known as somebody full of rhetoric and you never quite know whether I’m joking or serious,” he added.
“With this one it’s really hard for him to [use that defense]. In that sense the journalists are excited about the idea of trying to pin down a repeat offender.”
The comment about bodies piling high is a “cut through” issue that “everybody can have a view on,” said Franks.
But if the Conservative Party wins contested seats in local elections next week, it could show that the media is out of touch with what ordinary people care about, she added.