12/04/2013 Newswatch


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leader divisive in death as well as life, but did Baroness Thatcher


really deserve comments like this, airing just hours after her death?


Margaret thatcher Streit -- destroyed my hometown, I am glad she


is death. We will discuss BBC coverage this week. There can be few


people alive during her premiership who don't have a firm view about the


then Margaret Thatcher and this week we have been treated to the full


gamut of those views. Here are just a few of them. It has just been


announced that Baroness Thatcher has died this morning. Today is a truly


sad day for our country. We have lost a great prime minister, a great


leader, a Great Britain. The light of her legacy will shine down the


generations. Very sad. A strong lady. But this was a politician


whose death inspired some in parts of London and Glasgow to take to the


streets to celebrate. That woman made my youth misery. She is to


blame for the ills in society. Margaret Thatcher did great hurt the


people in Britain, to working class communities across Britain. Also to


people here in Ireland. A lot of people hated the woman and what she


stood for, hated what she does to us. Hundreds of you contacted the


BBC with a range of reactions to the coverage. I will get the perspective


of the head of programmes for BBC News, Ceri Thomas. Before that, we


will hear from two of the viewers who got in touch with us this week,


Louise Robertson in our Glasgow studio and Lesley Collinson, who


joins us from Tunbridge Wells. What was your concern? I was concerned


that the reporting of Margaret Thatcher's death was heavily biased


against Margaret Thatcher and in extremely poor taste, because she is


a mother, grandmother, she has friends, she has family. Who would


like to hear some of the things that were being reported and some of the


comments? What were the comments that really got to you, that crossed


the line? People saying how glad they were that she was dead, dancing


with slogans written on their T-shirts. If I was in the grieving


process and that was my family, I would -- it would be awfully hard to


cope with. I thought perhaps if nothing nice could be said, nothing


should be set at all. That was on the six o'clock News on the day of


her death being announced. People would say she is a divisive figure


and why should the BBC sensor that? Absolutely, but although we live in


a wonderful democracy you have to have respect for peoples feelings


and to come on with such blatant disrespect when somebody has just


passed away is absolutely unnecessary. In six months time,


maybe, let's open the debate then, but the day after a person has died


is an acceptable, in my view. Robertson, you have heard my Leslie


was dismayed. Your reasons are different? My reasons are different.


When I heard the news about Margaret Thatcher and put on BBC News 24,


listening to that at the same time as we were catching up about social


media about people responding to it, my first thought was you would


not think you were listening to the same story because on the first day


it was reported by the BBC News, the reporters were trying to outdo each


other with a pro-Thatcher agenda, talking about the great leader and


how she had made this great country of ours. I thought the reporters


were stiff -- sycophantic in the extreme. We pay our licence fee and


we should be entitled to hear any event reported in an impartial way


and a way that reflects the experience we have had living


through the Thatcher years. mentioned social media, there is


concern about the national conversation being vitriolic and


unrestrained. There is the dip issue about different regions and Scotland


being different to the view in London, say? It is not just


Scotland, people in Liverpool, Wales, Manchester, all over the


country, there would be people feeling the way the BBC reported it,


especially on the first day, they would not recognise the reality of


the picture you were creating Thatcher. Thank you both very much


for coming on Newswatch. Lets put those points to Ceri Thomas. You


were criticised for being too sycophantic or two was disrespectful


but there is a concern about whether the BBC got the tone right,


especially the voices in the first few hours, the six o'clock News on


the day of her death? We would say that we have a duty to be respectful


to Mrs Thatcher, as we would beat anybody who had died so recently in


that way, but at this it -- at the same time we have to examine the


legacy and look at the shades of opinion that sprang up in the


aftermath of her death coming through. I think we did that. We


were respectful. The interesting thing is it is an art, not a


science. You can plan and prepare and thinking these things through in


advance but when the moment comes and you are making judgements in


real-time, it is very unlikely we are going to get everything


absolutely right. But you can establish some parameters. This is


an event that was anticipated and planned for. Waiting until the day


after might make all the difference? When people say we are glad she died


and it is within six hours of her death. I can't see that you could


have laid down parameters that would have excluded that comment in


advance. It is not saying that it should have been there on the day,


in retrospect maybe it was too harsh at that point. That opinion existed


and it is right that we reflected the fact it existed. Was that a bit


soon, a bit jarring, possibly, yes, but it is difficult to say we must


not do that. Another issue, how far the coverage was reflecting the


national conversation. Partly what Louise was saying about social


media, which was very critical overall and very anti-Lady Thatcher.


How did the BBC deal with that? You talk about the importance of social


media coverage. We don't say it drives our coverage. Our job is to


reflect shades of opinion within the country. Social media will be


informed by some of that opinion but it is not an accurate reflection of


the whole of society's opinion. focused on coverage that people felt


was either to carve -- to positive or two negative but a lot of


complaints have been about excessive coverage, that we should move on. A


couple of e-mails, Thatcher saturation hysteria coverage. There


is the news out there and many others want to hear it. Particularly


concerned that other important stories like North Korea, you could


not see them for several days? is a big story, the death of Mrs


Thatcher is a big story and the meaning of her to the country, it is


important to carry it and do it thoroughly. It was an international


story, not just the BBC doing it in this way. I don't think it did blot


out the coverage. We did lots of North Korea coverage even in the


midst of Mrs Thatcher's death. We have gone back to it as our coverage


has abated. When you look at viewing figures, Newsnight and the ten


o'clock news, they were below average. Did the BBC perhaps


overestimate what the public appetite would be for the amount of


coverage that was given? The viewing figures were interesting but we


would not build our coverage about our expectation that it would


increase viewing figures. When a major national event happens, our


duty is to coverage properly in ways that are appropriate and hope that


will attract viewers. If in the end people were choosing between


different programs that they could have watched and not watching all of


everything, that is reasonable on their part but it does not mean we


should not have done what we did. Thank you. Although coverage of


Baroness Thatcher's death was the topic which dominated viewer


reaction this week, there was one of the story which particularly caught


your eyes. It is not like I am going out or going after people, I am not


making these remarks... You made these remarks in a public area,


didn't you? They were taken out of context and not meant to offend.


They were written a long time ago. Being a young person, you do not


understand how people can be -- how people can misinterpret them until


you read back on them later on. they misinterpreted them, or


interpreted them correctly? They are misinterpreted, I am not homophobic


or racist. Paris Brown speaking to Stuart Flinders, before she resigned


as the first use and police crime Commissioner. Saudah Ibrahim


week. Next week, we will speak to the BBC's acting direction of --


director of use, about how the organisation is working to restore


trust in its journalism after the last tumultuous six months. Nutters


know any points you would like to on the programme. Find us on


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