If the Boris Johnson regime in London appears to be a government of journalists, by journalists, it is certainly not a government for journalists.

The honeymoon period with the fourth estate barely lasted a wet weekend. Now relations between No 10 and the media are bad - the worst in 40 years, according to veteran Sky News presenter Adam Boulton, who has been covering UK politics for about that length of time.

Somewhat odd, one might think, for a government seen by many commentators here as a triumvirate of Boris Johnson - a journalist; Michael Gove - a journalist, and Dominic Cummings - a campaigner/think tanker/political advisor (i.e., someone who hangs out with journalists)

According to the triumvirate theory, Johnson is the chairman of the board, Gove is the chief executive, and Cummings is the corporate henchman/fixer. They have all had decades of experience in or with the media.

Indeed for Johnson and Gove, there are very many personal contacts and colleagues scattered across the senior ranks of the media, which makes the collapse in relations hard to fathom.

"The traditional public service broadcasters will need to adapt to this new world, and I look forward to discussing how best they can do this with the BBC and others" - John Whittingdale

Rock bottom was hit - at least as far as the political correspondents are concerned - when a group of national media correspondents were refused access to a background briefing in Downing Street on the government's approach to trade negotiations with the EU.

The press pack was divided into those correspondents who were being let in and those who weren't, and were made to stand on either side of a rug in the foyer of Downing Street by security staff. The group of privileged journalists, which included the political editors of the BBC, ITN, the Daily telegraph and the Daily Mail, all walked out in solidarity with their excluded colleagues.

But the ongoing war is with the broadcasters, particularly the BBC.

Take the case of the Today programme, the flagship news and current affairs show on BBC Radio 4. It occupies a similar place to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland in shaping the political news agenda for the day - its 8.10am interview slot a highly prized goal.

Or at least it was until right after the general election in December, when Johnson's newly empowered government announced a boycott of the programme. And no ministers have appeared on it since. The programme's editor, Sarah Sands, is a former colleague of Boris Johnson's at the Daily Telegraph.

Reacting to the move on the BBC programme Feedback, Sands likened the boycott to US President Donald Trump's long-running feuds with the media: "What’s happened is that you can see the government won a big majority. It sees Labour in disarray and it thinks it’s a pretty good time to put the foot on the windpipe of an independent broadcaster. So the strategy is quite Trumpian: to delegitimise the BBC."

She said individual ministers had been "rather puzzled" by the boycott, but predicted that "peace would break out" with Downing Street after the Christmas break. But it hasn't - the boycott is holding. Ms Sands is leaving the Today programme later in the year.

It is not the only programme to be boycotted - Newsnight, the BBC2 TV heavyweight current affairs programme, is routinely ignored or sent junior ministers. As is Channel 4 News. They are all regarded by the Downing Street machine as part of an out-of-touch metropolitan elite that does not deal with the issues that ordinary people care most about, but instead cater to political obsessives.

The new policy is to put the Prime Minister on shows with bigger, more mainstream audiences. Which is why the first broadcast outlet to bag the first big Boris Johnson interview since the election, was the Breakfast Time show on BBC TV.

It's not noted for its forensic grilling of politicians, but it does have a bigger, more mainstream audience. At exactly the same time, the Today programme on radio had the backbench MP Liam Fox in to fill the once mighty 8.10am slot.

"I think it's fair to say people find the criminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee to be something that has provoked questions in the past" - Rishi Sunak

So breakfast TV is it for political interviews? Not if you are ITV. Its Good Morning Britain programme, fronted by Piers Morgan, is also on the blacklist for Conservative ministers. The show's response has been to become more taunting and critical of the government.

At the end of January, former Conservative politician Amber Rudd - who quit Boris Johnson’s government in August over its Brexit policy - spoke out against the boycott, saying trust won't be rebuilt with the public by avoiding scrutiny of the kind that comes from robust one-on-one interviews.

At the same event, BBC director general Tony Hall said he believed the boycott would be short-lived. The week previously Hall had announced he was stepping down as the BBC boss, and will be gone by the summer. He said the organisation needed a new leader in place before it begins negotiations on its next charter renewal and licence fee negotiation.

This is really important for the BBC, and the licence fee issue could well become a much more significant stick for the government to wield in its effort to influence BBC coverage than not sending ministers onto the Today programme.

The licence fee sabre was rattled during the general election campaign with the usual whispering campaign, prompting questions at a news conference, to which Boris Johnson replied: "At this stage we are not planning to get rid of all licence fees, though I am certainly looking at it. I’m under pressure not to extemporize policy on the hoof.

"But you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV media organisation still makes sense in the long-term given the way other media organisations manage to fund themselves. The system of funding out of effectively a general tax bears reflection. How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels?"

Given the long history of unpleasantness between the Conservative party and the BBC, this was seen as a clear warning to the broadcaster to watch its step in the election campaign.

Hopes that it was just an election time ploy were dashed, however, in the immediate aftermath of the election, when Rishi Sunak, then a junior minister at the Treasury, appeared on the BBC's Andrew Marr show and was asked about another rumour doing the rounds, that the government would decriminalise the non-payment of the licence fee.

Sunak replied: "That is something the prime minister has said we will look at, and has instructed people to look at that. I think it’s fair to say people find the criminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee to be something that has provoked questions in the past."

New British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

Indeed it has provoked questions, but the BBC insists the threat of sanctions for non-payment is essential to maintain the high rate of collection of the fee. Every year around 120,000 people are convicted of non-payment (out of 26 million households).

The average fine is £176, but in 2018 five people were given brief jail terms for non-payment. As a result of this regime the BBC is able to take in some £3.69 billion in licence fee revenue (about €4.4 billion). This year the licence fee has been given an inflation-related increase to £157.50p (about €188 – the Irish licence fee is €160).

The BBC believes decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee would cost it about £200 million in lost revenue (in euro that would be about €238 million, which is more than RTÉ's entire licence fee revenue of €221 million).

The BBC has recently announced 450 job cuts as part of a drive to save £80 million of its current income, so the prospect of losing £200m is a big worry for the Corporation.

More worrying for the BBC has been the resurfacing of another idea that has been kicking around for a few months, that of scrapping the licence fee altogether, and replacing it with a subscription service. This formed the page one lead for the Sunday Times last weekend, with reports from "a Downing Street Source" saying No 10 was "not bluffing on the licence fee" and would seek to replace it with a Netflix-style voluntary payment.

The source told the paper: "We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has to be a subscription model. They've got hundreds of radio stations, they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website. The whole thing needs massive pruning back. They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service, which is part of its core job."

Despite the unattributed nature of the comments, fingers were quickly pointed in the direction of Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s senior advisor, who has long held (and expressed) views on the BBC. In short, he doesn't like it. He has previously described the BBC as the "mortal enemy of the right".

Dominic Cummings has described the BBC as the 'mortal enemy of the right'

Turning the BBC into a subscription service - akin to Netflix - with purchase optional rather than compulsory, sounds like the "disruptive" thinking that Cummings is said to want to bring to the British system.

But there have been plenty of others who have pointed out that Netflix doesn't do news and current affairs, radio, regional broadcasting, live events like royal weddings or charity fundraisers, sports, religion, orchestras or many of the other things the BBC does. But for those who think like Cummings, the BBC does far too much - especially online, where it has a massive internet presence.

The Mail on Sunday got back onto Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who published a private members' bill in 2011 that proposed holding a referendum on the future of BBC funding, including scrapping the licence fee altogether.

He told the Mail: "My view is that either you keep it as it is, or subscription-only like Netflix, or you just have adverts. Rather than it be decided by the great and the good, let the licence fee payer take back control, to use a famous phrase. We love referendums now, don't we."

"Destroying the BBC wasn't in our manifesto and would be cultural vandalism. 'Vote Tory and close Radio 2’. Really?" - Damien Green

Media watchers in Ireland are also looking beyond simple threats or attempts to exert control over the BBC to see who might benefit from a weakened national broadcaster. And naturally they look to Rupert Murdoch, the veteran Australian media mogul. He has been a long-time backer of Boris Johnson, and of Brexit.

Having sold out his holdings in Fox TV in America and Sky TV in Europe, his main UK interests are in newspapers - the Sun, The Times and the Sunday Times - and in radio through a holding company called Wireless.

He controls a number of UK national stations - Talk Sport 1 and 2, Talk Radio and Virgin Radio UK - and is close to launching a new national talk radio station called Times Radio, which will draw on the editorial resources of the Times and Sunday Times newspapers.

Rupert Murdoch's remaining main UK interests are in newspapers and radio

It is intended to be a competitor to BBC Radio 4, the home of the Today programme. This week it recruited the BBC's deputy political editor John Pienaar as its first big signing. Wireless also runs some music stations under the Scottish Sun brand in Scotland. (It also operates a chain of local radio stations in Ireland , including FM104 and Q102 in Dublin, LMFM and Cork 96).

With the future of newspapers increasingly seen as being one of online editions protected by paywalls, a big BBC website freely available is clearly a competitor to News UK, as is the BBC's dominance in national radio stations.

Having failed (as it would see it) to assert control over BBC content by complaining about the content in decades past, is the Conservative party now trying to control the BBC by threatening its finances, a version of the US "starve the beast" approach to government agencies?

Or is a proper and necessary examination of the future financing mechanisms for public service broadcasting being hijacked by political or commercial interests?

But as with previous attempts to do down the BBC, there was pushback among Conservative backbenchers and frontbenchers, including apparently, the Prime Minister himself.

By midweek it was being reported that: "The PM is not as gung ho on the licence fee as Dom - with Dom it’s ideological - he believes the licence fee should be scrapped. With the PM it’s more reform than revolution."

Another government source told The Times that Johnson was "cool" on the idea of scrapping the licence fee. Former deputy PM Damian Green said: "Destroying the BBC wasn’t in our manifesto and would be cultural vandalism. 'Vote Tory and close Radio 2’. Really?"

And ex-culture select committee chairman Damian Collins said: "No surprise that nobody has put their name to this destructive idea. This would smash the BBC and turn it from being a universal broadcaster to one that would just work for its subscribers."

Most telling, perhaps, was the intervention late in the week by John Whittingdale. He was brought back into the government as junior minister in last week’s reshuffle, and put in charge of media and digital - an area he has a longstanding interest and expertise in, having spent ten years as chair of the commons committee on broadcasting and culture, and later as Secretary of State for Culture - before resigning over a story about a previous affair the (unmarried) politician had with a woman who turned out to be an escort.

Junior minister John Whittingdale put in charge of media and digital by Boris Johnson

The story was broken by the BBC, who ran it not because of the ministers private life, but because four national newspapers knew about the story, but had decided not to run it. At the time, Whittingdale was in charge of press regulation as well, and was expected to implement some additional reforms suggested by the Leveson inquiry into dodgy practices by the tabloids.

He was regarded as having a conflict of interest because the newspapers had a damaging story but were going easy on him, not because of an issue in his private life which had occurred before he became a minister.

But to most people it was just a another Tory sleaze story, and he resigned. Plenty of reasons why Whittingdale might be out to get the BBC now that he is back in government and handling the BBC brief, it might be thought, and his return certainly added to the climate of fear among broadcasters.

But Whittingdale has disavowed any intent to break up or cut down to size the national broadcaster.

"I have always believed that the BBC is one of our best-loved and most admired public institutions and I am convinced that there is still a need for a strong public service broadcaster", he told his local newspaper.

"The BBC Charter, which I agreed with the BBC when I was last in government, remains in place until 2027. However, even in the short time since then, the broadcasting landscape has changed hugely, with streaming services like Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Disney becoming widely available.

"The traditional public service broadcasters will need to adapt to this new world, and I look forward to discussing how best they can do this with the BBC and others."

Whittingdale said although a new model of payment could be looked at, a subscription model is not yet feasible: "There might one day come a time when alternative methods of finance become possible, but this could only be considered once every household has access to broadband without which a subscription model simply cannot work."

But maybe this sudden urge to attack and disrupt the BBC by Dominic Cummings is not about the BBC at all. Maybe it is the old football managers trick of trying to take attention off his players before a big match by saying something outrageous and becoming the story himself?

Dominic Cummings and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

In this case it's to give the media a bone to gnaw on in these early days of the new government, when there is much planning needed for the Brexit negotiations and (more immediately) the budget preparations and bringing in a new immigration system and a whole host of other changes to the way Britain is run, many of them promised by the vote leave campaign, which was run by Dominic Cummings.

Vote Leave's broadcasting news chief was Lee Cain, a former Daily Mirror Journalist, who is now Boris Johnson's press advisor in Downing Street. Among the board members of the vote leave campaign were Michael Gove, Priti Patel - now the Home Secretary - and John Whittingdale.

Back in 2016, Cummings found that threatening a national broadcaster was a great way of generating headlines and getting attention on his campaign. But back then the broadcaster being threatened was ITV, and its political editor Robert Peston. ITN had set up a referendum debate between then prime minister David Cameron and Nigel Farage, leader of the other pro-Brexit campaign group, Leave EU.

At the time the HuffPost website reported a Cummings-esque attack on the broadcaster:

"ITV is led by people like Robert Peston who campaigned for Britain to join the euro. ITV has lied to us in private while secretly stitching up a deal with Cameron to stop Boris Johnson or Michael Gove debating the issues properly. ITV has effectively joined the official In campaign, and there will be consequences for its future - the people in No 10 won't be there for long."

He was right about David Cameron, but so far there has been little sign of any "consequences" for ITV , apart from Piers Morgan not having any ministers to kick around in the morning.