Chris Bryant MP: My on-air spat with Sky News's Kay Burley


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The Independent Online

When I agreed to go on Sky News yesterday afternoon I did not even know who I would be speaking with, let alone that just minutes afterwards the clip would be posted on YouTube, shared on Twitter and I would be flooded with emails and text messages.

My interview with Kay Burley started to go badly when she pulled me up for suggesting that the practice of journalists using illegal techniques was endemic at British newspapers and suggested I had no evidence for that. I was referring to the widely publicised Information Commissioners report of 2006 which showed that there were more than 1,000 instances of journalists illegally buying confidential information at UK newspapers.

It was at that point I realised that she appeared not to have read into the story and I said she was being a bit dim. Later she compounded my view when she suggested that all I needed to do was change my PIN and everything would be fine.

My PIN had nothing to do with my phone being hacked. Someone phoned Orange, my mobile network provider, and tried to pretend to be me in order to gain access to my voicemails. There are lots of ways to hack a phone and that is why I called for a debate on this matter because I don't think it has been discussed properly.

I do not have any bad blood with Kay or any media organisations. Nor, as has been speculated on the internet, was I inferring that News International and Rupert Murdoch's news organisations had been ignoring the story.

But my interpretation of a television journalist is someone who is independent. Kay Burley seemed to have made up her mind about this story before we went on air. She had taken a view that it was not important.

After I came off air I had lots of texts and emails and I know that it has been doing the rounds on Twitter, too. I know that people are congratulating me for taking her on. It seems she is famed for rubbing people up the wrong way, but I was not aware of that before I went on air. Like I said, I didn't even know who I would be speaking with until she introduced me, so it is not as if I went on with a plan to argue with her. In any case, I think I was rather charming. I even said "if you don't mind me saying so..." after I called her dim.