United Kingdom

How Number 10's Covid weekend briefings lost 25 million viewers

Britons will not be tuning into a Covid-19 Downing Street press conference today after ministers scrapped the weekend updates due to falling viewing figures. 

Around three million people a day have tuned in to the coronavirus update which features a member of cabinet flanked by two experts since the first one on March 16.

During the first daily update, which was watched by 3.44 million people, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the death toll across the UK was 36, although it was revealed that Britain was moving from the containing Covid-19 to the delaying its spread stage and testing would no longer be carried out in the community and would concentrate in hospitals. 

Boris Johnson's press conferences announcing the lockdown and outlining the easing of restrictions both attracted in the region of 25 million viewers, while other Covid-19 press conferences have attracted between two and five million people 

On March 23, almost 26 million people watched Boris Johnson announce a three-week lockdown due to the growing Covid-19 crisis

The daily briefings took place after the government faced accusations of a lack of transparency in dealing with the crisis. 

However, the two biggest audiences were for the PM addressing the nation directly. 

On March 23, around 26 million people tuned in to hear the PM announce the most draconian restrictions on the British people in peace time. 

On May 10, more than 25 million witnessed the PM provide some relief after two months of lockdown that the country could slowly return to normal.  

It was during this address he unveiled the 'Stay Alert, Protect the NHS, Save Lives' slogan. 

On June 3, some 3.76 million people watched the PM express how 'very proud' he was of his Government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis - despite the 50,000 death toll. 

He took the opportunity to warn the country that 'tragically there will be many, many job losses. That is just inevitable'. 

Since the first press conference on March 16, there have only been two days without a briefing.  

From next week, the PM will lead at least one briefing a week with support from medical and scientific experts. 

In a statement, a Number 10 source explained the policy change: 'From this week, the press conferences will be on weekdays only, so no longer on Saturdays and Sundays.

Before the lockdown, journalists packed into the briefings, while the lecterns featuring those speaking were also much closer together

'The PM will take a press conference every week alongside… the scientific and medical experts.

'Others will be led by secretaries of state, alongside scientific and medical experts where relevant.'

When challenged about the change, the official responded: 'It is just a fact that the numbers who are viewing at weekends do tend to be significantly lower.' 

Since the first Covid-19 briefing on March 16 - which attracted 3.44 million viewers, there have been 11 weekends with press conferences. 

On March 22, 5.72 million people watched as rumours spread about the impending lockdown which was not announced until the following night. 

A week later, 7.5 million tuned in over the two days. On April 4/5, this had fallen back to six million. 

The following week, fewer people again tuned in and by mid April, the Saturday and Sunday conferences struggled to reach six million between them. 

On April 24, as news of the Dominic Cummings breaching Covid guidelines broke, only 3.34 million tuned into the daily briefing. 

On the Bank Holiday Monday, some five million watched. 

Last Sunday, 2.21 million people tuned in according to the figures collated by TV Overnights. 

10 Downing Street Covid-19 press conference viewing figures  
Date Number of viewers / millions
16/03/2020 3.44
17/03/2020 3.53
18/03/2020 5.21
19/03/2020 4.92
20/03/2020 4.23
21/03/2020 2.27
22/03/2020 5.72
23/03/2020 25.97
24/03/2020 3.71
25/03/2020 3.66
26/03/2020 3.97
27/03/2020 3.05
28/03/2020 3.35
29/03/2020 4.19
30/03/2020 3.83
31/03/2020 3.43
01/04/2020 3.30
02/04/2020 3.61
03/04/2020 3.37
04/04/2020 2.87
05/04/2020 3.58
06/04/2020 3.47
07/04/2020 3.07
08/04/2020 3.01
09/04/2020 3.00
10/04/2020 3.21
11/04/2020 2.23
12/04/2020 3.70
13/04/2020 4.05
14/04/2020 3.77
15/04/2020 3.59
16/04/2020 4.40
17/04/2020 3.75
18/04/2020 2.86
19/04/2020 2.69
20/04/2020 3.45
21/04/2020 3.33
22/04/2020 3.34
23/04/2020 3.29
24/04/2020 3.05
25/04/2020 2.11
26/04/2020 2.47
27/04/2020 3.97
28/04/2020 4.10
29/04/2020 3.71
30/04/2020 5.16
01/05/2020 3.99
02/05/2020 2.41
03/05/2020 3.83
04/05/2020 3.64
05/05/2020 3.43
06/05/2020 3.14
07/05/2020 3.27
08/05/2020 2.79
09/05/2020 2.39
10/05/2020 24.35
11/05/2020 2.97
12/05/2020 3.70
13/05/2020 3.50
14/05/2020 3.23
15/05/2020 3.13
16/05/2020 3.63
17/05/2020 2.44
18/05/2020 3.15
19/05/2020 2.72
20/05/2020 2.48
21/05/2020 2.64
22/05/2020 3.00
23/05/2020 2.51
24/05/2020 3.34
25/05/2020 5.00
26/05/2020 2.85
27/05/2020 2.78
28/05/2020 3.50
29/05/2020 2.58
30/05/2020 3.07
31/05/2020 2.21
01/06/2020 2.49
02/06/2020 2.57
03/06/2020 3.76
04/06/2020 3.06

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