A free media has long been regarded as the cornerstone of effective democracy.

But there is now – not for the first time – concern that the triangular relationship between government, media and the people has turned bad, with a cautious government and a strident press locked in a game of mutual destruction that creates bad policy and alienates the public.

The topic was deemed so important that Tony Blair decided to take it on in one of his valedictory speeches before standing down as Prime Minister in summer 2007.

This is a report on three private seminars, held under Chatham House rules, at the Institute for Government under the chairmanship of Professor Anthony King in autumn 2009.

People with experience of communications inside and outside of government were brought together to discuss the current state of relations between the media and the government, and whether there was any scope for improvement.

The seminars have been supplemented by some Institute for Government desk research.