24/01/2014 Newswatch


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Now, it is time for Newswatcn, and this week, it examines the Lord


Rennard case, and it's coverage. Welcome to the programme. This week


come up did the allegations against Lord Rennard of unwanted advances


have the right kind of attention from BBC News? The offensive gesture


made by this footballer is news, but some viewers say showing it again


causes offence in itself. And following last week's outburst of


music from Nick Robinson's computer, we hear your suggestions


for music. Lord Rennard is credited with being the Liberal Democrats'


election mastermind. However, his public profile had been relatively


low until claims that he had sexually harassed female party


members over a number of years. After failing to apologise, he was


suspended from the party on Monday. Tonight at ten, the Lib Dems are


struggling to contain the crisis surrounding Lord Rennard. The party


leader tells him to apologise. He has now been suspended from the


party, no longer able to sit with colleagues in the House of Lords.


But was the BBC's coverage balanced?


The head of the BBC Newsroom joins me now to answer some of those


issues. Some viewers, as we saw in that sample, feel that the coverage


had somewhat sensationalised and built a story, rather than just


reported it? Our job is to report and follow a story. This story


unfolded over several days, and each day we were making judgements about


how significant the developments were on that day, and what


prominence it deserved. Early in the week, we felt that it had reached a


certain point in terms of the story itself, but also the debate and the


impact within the Liberal Democrats, the authority of Nick


Clegg, the coalition government, it became a really important political


story, and that is why it got a lot of prominence early in the week.


There was a specific concern, with Lord Rennard having denied the


allegations, as the BBC given enough airtime to his side? Every time we


did the story we made it very, very clear that he had denied all the


allegations. Some of the players in this story have come out and spoken


on air on the camera. Others have not, but Lord Rennard himself gave a


very long statement, which we recorded. People close to him have


also been on air, putting his side of the story. So, I am satisfied


that we have always worked hard to make sure that we represent all


different views. One viewer compared it to Plebgate. There is a concern


that BBC political coverage goes after these very personal stories,


which then become big rows, partly because of the media attention? I do


not think that is the case, we are not going after them, we are


tracking and following and reporting, and it is true that


sometimes at the heart of these stories is an individual, a


personality, but it is then the reaction to that which bills the


story just in both cases, and I would not want to draw too many


parallels, but there was an element of accusation, denial, counter


accusation, and it is very important that we report what has been said by


everybody involved. Also we have to attract them over time because


Plebgate led to an ongoing examination of the nature of trust


in releasing, the Police Federation, and of course the


politics of how Cameron dealt with the situation. Meanwhile, with Lord


Rennard, you are looking at how a political party and a leader deals


with that situation. Overtime, it becomes clearer, or not, exactly


what happened, but also how the institutions are dealing with it.


There is an awful lot of cases around sexual abuse or alleged


sexual abuse and harassment, but in the Lord Rennard case, there has


been an internal inquiry only within the party, and with confusing


results. Is there a danger that the toll of BBC reporting has an


influence, the same as Operation Yewtree? Last week we had five


stories in this kind of area. It is an interesting question, one we have


been talking a lot about in the newsroom. In the end, the news gods


deliver, and we have to respond to that. We cannot control the fact


that there have been a number of court cases running in parallel, and


a number of stories coming along at the same time. Our job is to remain


very, very committed to accuracy, care with language and the necessary


detail. For instance, as you have said, making it very, very clear


that in some cases we are talking about allegations of sexual


harassment, in others, sexual abuse, sometimes, sexual abuse of minors,


it can be very many different charges or accusations. Again, being


really clear when we are talking about the court case, a trial,


charges, in Lord Rennard's case, a grievance process, in essence,


within a particular institution. So, we are determined and careful about


being as accurate as we possibly can, within a context where we


recognise that it can feel as if there is a lot of this sort of stuff


at the moment. But I hope that by being very careful and accurate, we


hope audiences navigate and understand the different nature of


these different stories. Please give us your feedback on that


issue and on any other aspect of BBC News. Details on how to contact us


at the end of the programme. Let's find out what else you have been


commenting on, starting with the controversy over the footballer


Nicola Anelka, who made a gesture after scoring a goal last month,


known as the quenelle, which is widely considered to be


anti-Semitic. On Tuesday he was charged by the Football


Association, and BBC reports on the case faced some objections...


One week ago, the body of three-year-old Mikaeel Kular was


found in Kirkcaldy after an extensive search. The BBC reported


on the reaction of the local community. It is so, so sad.


Devastating news for a community which had so wished for a positive


outcome. Throughout the day, families in Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy


have been laying flowers. We heard the news, it was just devastating.


We just wanted to come and pay our respects. It is absolutely


heartbreaking. Mikaeel's mother was later charged with his murder. There


was a variety of responses to the BBC's coverage of the case...


Pop singer Justin Bieber last hit the headlines when he turned up very


late for a concert last year. As was the case then, we received


objections on Thursday that his arrest on a variety of charges,


including driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana,


did not warrant the attention given to it by BBC News.


Finally, last week we feature to an unusual occurrence in the middle of


a discussion on The Daily Politics. Nick Robinson's tablet computer


suddenly burst forth, for reasons which have not yet been explained,


with Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls, perhaps not most suitable choice of


music for the BBC's political editor. We asked you for some


suggestions. Thank you for all those suggestions


and for all your comments this week. If you want to share your opinions


or even appear on the programme, you can call us. Or you can e-mail us.


You can find us on Twitter. Also, have a look at our website. That is


all from us. We will be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News


coverage again next week. Until then, goodbye.


Yet again, there is plenty of weather to talk about in the


forecast, and I am sure it is perhaps not what you would like.


Today, we had a brief clips of sunshine, but a cold day on the east


coast. An inch of rain in the south-west, but there was a lot


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