30/03/2012 Newswatch


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Raymond Snoddy. This week, why did the BBC broadcast so many weeks of


last week's Budget ahead of the Welcome to NewsWatch. Why we have


all been busy working out if we are winners or losers from a street's


Budget, George Osborne has been talking to the Treasury Select


Committee -- last week's budget. We asked why everyone seemed to know


so much about what was in the Budget before he delivered it.


Every single budget I have seen in the 20 or so years I have seen --


been in politics, there has been speculation beforehand, sometimes


budgets have leaked and sometimes the speculation has been well


informed. What I can confirm is that no Treasury official or


Treasury minister, no Treasury special adviser briefed before the


Budget any specific information on tax rates or tax allowances.


featured last week and you are's objections to hearing about the


budget's contents in advance of the day itself and it is a tendency


others have complained about. He It in this -- it is an issue Nick


Robinson addressed in a report shown the night before the Budget.


Gone are the days chancellors do the deed until a prime minister


what they were planning. Now every line has to be agreed by the so-


called quad which runs the coalition. Negotiations which have


at a to lead -- a habit of leaking out. Her local stock even he has


probably heard that the government is about to cut the 50 pence top


rate of tax. So does the fault lie with politicians or with


journalists? And how much of a problem is it? I am joined by


Norman Smith, chief political correspondent on the news channel.


Norman Smith, whatever happened to budget purdah? In the far distant


past the Chancellor could get fired for leaks. The truth is purdah has


been dying a slow DEFRA decades now and gradually, incrementally, the


amount of information that is passed out by one way or another to


journalists ahead of the Budget has been increasing until we reach the


stage this year we're frankly there was only one really headline Budget


measure which hadn't been briefed in advance which was the so-called


Granny Tax and the reason for that in part is the changing nature of


the way politics is covered now by the media. It is so intensive,


particularly with the new forms of media, I am thinking particularly


of Twitter, the internet and so on, that there is more persuasive


pressure on politicians now to disclose, to give some insight, to


give some titbit of information and that builds up a team at his


momentum where more substantive -- and that builds up more momentum


where more so stunted allegations become apparent. That is one thing


that has happened. Is the other thing coalition government? Have


you got the phenomenon of the Lib Dems leaking against the


Conservatives? It is absolutely the case and the other key reason was


because we are in a political environment with a coalition


government which is bluntly meant a public negotiation or horse trade


between the political parties over what they want out of the budget,


their red lines, then no going areas and their positioning so they


can trope and -- so they can trumpet to people look, this is


what we have achieved. Within the Chancellor's team they take the


view privately that the Liberal Democrats were guilty of leaking


information to the media as a way of buttressing their position


against accusations that they had sold out over the match and tax or


whatever that they briefed n advance certain games such as on


the raising of the tax threshold to insulate themselves against that


accusation after the Budget. there a danger that journalists


from being caught up in political games, the sort of differential


leaking as you said, the so-called granny tax was not least because it


was not something they were particularly wanting to draw


attention to. Are you caught up in these games between Lib Dems are


leaking against the Conservatives, etc? Yes, that is part and parcel


of the political cut-and-thrust, the more so now because it is a


coalition error. From my perspective it seems to me


increasingly the view that all political announcements, all


initiatives, are three briefed in advance. In fact when the Queen


came to Westminster the other day it was frankly a shock because the


Palace absolutely did not give us anything in advance, which for


political journalists come hang on a second, we have to tell audiences


what you are going to say and we did not get that from the palace


because the Palace comes from a previous media era and in a funny


way when a politician makes a speech very often it gets


comparatively little courage and all the coverage is its front


loaded because at the time he makes it, editors are thinking I have


heard that, there is nothing new, so it is a weird world but it is


increasingly the case that everything, including budgets, is


extensively briefed in advance. viewers complained that the BBC


should not be indulging in speculation, should just report the


facts but if you are right you were not indulging in speculation, you


were reporting the facts, the leaks are mainly true? Yes, I would not


entirely dismissed the speculation side of it in the sense that had


been speculation, I would rephrase it as informed analysis if you


wanted to be slightly pompous about it but I think there is a place for


trying to provide some thoughts from people who are within the


Westminster village, who perhaps have a sense of where story is


going or how it is likely to develop without necessarily having


all the concrete facts lined up in a neat row. Betting you can join up


dots. When people say League setting the temptation is to


imagine someone from the Treasury rings you up and say the Treasury


is going to do this, this is not how it happens. It tends to be more


oblique conversations where I would not get very far if I said to a


government figure is the Chancellor going to cut a top rate of tax?


That would be simply, I can't tell you. You rarely get clear,


categorical facts, of this is what is going to happen, but you can


piece together the bits-and-pieces to form an idea of what is likely


to happen. Norman Smith, thank you. For some more of your comments and


what you have been watching this week on BBC News, or in the case of


the NHS Bill, what you have not been watching, the Health Bill


gained Royal Assent on Tuesday after a tortuous passage through


Parliament and a row over the government's refusal to publish an


internal risk assessment. Professor Peter Jane Evans from Oxford


University felt this deserved more A rather more active objection to


BBC output was made this week by representatives of the Mormon


Church, who visited the corporation to hand to deliver a letter of


complaint. It centred on Tuesday's This World documentary on BBC Two


in which John Sweeney investigated the religious beliefs of Mitt


Romney and asked whether the United States is ready for a more one


President? I can't in good conscience vote for him, I can't do


it. Mitt Romney is a Mormon and they believe that Jesus came to


America. Are the more one bashers just religious bigots? I go on the


road to find out. Some NewsWatch viewers were equally unhappy with


the programme. One view was said it was poorly researched and


One of the bigger and angrier postbags we had last year followed


August's riots across English cities. Many viewers felt the


extent of the coverage on BBC B -- BBC News had fanned the flames.


Among them, John Bell. I thought that it had become very


irresponsible. We were just being flooded with picture after picture


of the riots and to my mind it almost became an invitation, you


know, look what is going on out here, guys, come and joiners or


there will be another one tomorrow night. This week saw the


publication of an independent report into the roots of last


summer's event. Over the course or five extraordinary day's last


August England learnt how order and chaos are close neighbours. Them


rioting, looting and arson spreading like Bush fires across


the country, the politicians initially blaming criminality, pure


and simple. But then commissioning a report to look at the deeper


social causes and lessons to be learned. One of the panel's


findings chime with the concerns of our viewers at the time. It said


the spread of violence was helped by televised images of police


watching people looked at will. And that many felt the 24 hour news


coverage on the BBC and Sky exaggerated the extent of rioting


where they lived, helping to make the riots self-fulfilling prophecy.


Finally, another own complaint -- old complaint has come back to


haunt BBC News. In January we showed how the news channel had


mistakenly captioned Labour leader Ed Miliband at his brother, David.


Well, at last week's Prime Minister's Question Time the same


thing happened again. Ed Miliband. Mr Speaker, following the Prime is


to's recent trip to Washington we now know that the timetable for the


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