30/06/2012 Newswatch


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Welcome to Newswatch. Later in the programme - Jeremy Paxman is known


as a combat if the interviewer but has he gone too far? That is what


we see to use for the credibility... Is this some sort of joke? With


have almost become used to a state of political turmoil in countries


such as Egypt, Libya and Syria since the first spark of revolution


at the end of 2010. The Arab Spring, this series of popular uprisings


has proved a uniquely difficult time for broadcasters to cover.


Nobody saw it coming on quite the scale. The unpredictability has


been one challenge. Events have been moving so quickly in different


locations. Another difficulty has been safety. Have to get close


enough to the story without putting yourself in danger. Correspondence


have taken significant risks to get the report out, such as this report


a's piece from Homs in Syria and the dispatches from Ian panel in


Syria. The risks, logistical and editorial challenges, will clearly


remain for a while, but has the BBC given as full and ballast a picture


as possible of the Arab Spring? On Monday the BBC Trust published a


review of the coverage of the Arab Spring followed by a report written


by a Middle East expert. The overseer of the report joins the


now. What did the trust fund as a result of this research in this


report? I think the overwhelming. The trustees want to make in the


first instance is that the coverage is remarkable. The BBC were


covering of random events happening in a huge geographical area and


volunteers were going in from the BBC into great places of danger and


risking their lives. These are interesting countries because full


uprisings did not happen. Why? Jordan, Morocco. There are other


big countries, like Saudi Arabia, where it is very difficult to get


in. Did it get the coverage it deserves? And then you look at the


countries where there were uprisings like Egypt. What happened


between the spring and the awesome? Some would say that they could have


been done more to explain what was going on. So when a fence -- events


flared up in Devon there again people knew why. Is there a danger


that journalists go off chasing the next begin courses story and


sometimes forget the last one? There is always a risk when there


are dramatic events and there are great pictures. Audiences love


dramatic pictures and they like getting engaged with real events. I


think everybody recognises the need to do the more dull events and that


is one other finding of the report. It could be helpful if the news


division can sound back and take issue strategic look and check that


gaps are not an emerging. Is there a problem of that historically the


BBC has believed its editors of individual programmes should have


the freedom to edit and there is an obvious tension between that


freedom to edit and the executive standing back and sometimes


interfering? I think that is a genuine problem. BBC management


recognise it. You really want editors to have the freedom to


express the individuality of their own programme on behalf of their


own audiences and yet if everybody is doing the amazing protest that


is happening today in the streets of Syria, but not a single one of


them is saying who was making up the opposition in Syria and are


they arming themselves and are they part of the violence, these trends


emerge but did they emerge early enough? That is one of the


questions. That is why you would expect the stand back look by the


management with the editors, of course, and the Middle East Editor


having a look and saying, there is something missing. That should be a


continuing process. In a way, editorial advice from senior


executives? I think it will affect not just the Arab Spring but will


impact on all the big stories. Thank you Crowe. Many of the points


raised in the review have a bin -- echoing in with the comments by


Newswatch viewers. At the height of the coverage of Libya last autumn,


Paul Smith e-mailed with some sarcasm. Viewers have complained of


insufficient reporting over the last 18 months, such as Bahrain.


With me to discuss this is the BBC's deputy director of news,


Steve Mitchell. We have heard from Fran O'Brien that the BBC Trust


completely admires the remarkable coverage of the Arab Spring, says


it was largely impartial and salutes the courage of BBC


journalists in getting it but they say it can be improved and one


complaint is that there was a tendency to go from one big story


to another and forgetting maybe what has happened in some of the


others. Is that fair? We have looked at the report and we


probably think that is a fair criticism in part. Edward Mortimer


was able to review a lot of our output but not all of our output


and we did return to the Egyptian story after the fall of Hosni


Mubarak. There was a period of some weeks where you did not? Their way


up here is when we did not an especially peeress when what was


going on in Egypt did not appear on the main television bulletins.


is not to say that it was not been recorded elsewhere but it is true


that we were very focused on other, major breaking stories including a


war in which we were involved in Libya, a tsunami in Japan. That is


our problem, always, of course, to try to get the balance right


between major breaking events, which news bulletins by definition


have to tell the audience about and returning to stories which reached


a peak earlier but up offers the continuing to unfold. Could you, as


the Trust implies, perhaps have given more context on the main


bulletins, where most people receive the news? Again, the issue


is largely about space rather than intent. Our bulletins are


distinguished by the amount of context and background that we try


to give the audiences but they are of limited duration and the


logistics of that means that sometimes we haven't the space to


do as much context as we would like but personally I think we probably


could have done more to explain some of the more nuanced issues


around all of the events in the Middle East and we will learn from


what Edward Mortimer has found. Just occasionally perhaps too much


enthusiasm from the camp of the rebels, which is understandable


because that is where often the reporters were when covering a


story? I think by definition there was a lot of enthusiasm on the


streets in the Middle East and our reporters on the ground were


reflecting and reporting on that but I do not think any of our


people were carried away by that and I do not think our journalism


as it was edited in London over emphasised that. We will always


making it clear of what the fewest were seeing was, the fence in one


square in Cairo, but there is a huge country and there with a huge


range of opinions -- offence. Looking back says our coverage we


were careful to make that point throughout. Do you accept that


another suggestion from the Trust, that senior executives such as


yourself should have built into the system stand back moments to review,


to see whether the context has been properly explained or what? Yes, I


do accept that. I can accept it on my own behalf. I think that is part


of what I should be doing as I am responsible for a range of


programmes which are not all subject to the constraints of space


that I have described on the main television bulletins. So probably,


someone like me personally should have been saying to some of the


programmes or programmes on radio or online, maybe we should go back


to these stories and maybe we should do a little more context. It


consistent use of the word regime, which few was think can be


pejorative. We have agreed to take that word to one side and think


about it impact on -- its impact on a different audiences. We need to


be quite careful about where we come to with this. Thank you. Time


for one more comment and it relates to interview conducted on Tuesday's


Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman. The guest, in some people's eyes, the


victim, was junior Treasury minister Chloe Smith, there to


defend the deferral of the planned rise in fuel duty. You are here to


defend a change of policy and you cannot even tell me when you were


told what a change of policy was. am not able to give a running


commentary. I am not asking for a running commentary. I am asking for


a statement of facts. There were told sometime today. Was it before


or after lunch? Is it hard for you defend this policy? Which


department is going to come from? That figure will progress, now in


they few departments. I will not do that. Do you not know? Are you


waiting to be told that as well? Te wake up in the morning of thing,


what am I go in to be told today? Do you ever think you are


incompetent? The Chancellor and Tory party spin doctors were


attacked for putting Chloe Smith up front of you put the blame lay


elsewhere according to this viewer, who described it as Jeremy Paxman


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