14/03/2014 Newswatch


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Now it is time for Newswatch with Samira Ahmed.


Hello, welcome to Newswatch with me, Samira Ahmed. Today, the trial of


Oscar Pistorius, compelling real-life television drama or


airtime-filling visual wallpaper? And... We were going to debate that


question but today, after speaking to the mosque... The irony of a


debate programme called Free Speech being accused of censorship.


We are now two weeks into the latest court case to be described as the


trial of the century. For those without access to any media in that


time, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius is accused of murdering


his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, last February. He has pleaded not


guilty to all charges. To some viewers, though, the case may have a


familiar feel. We have reached a verdict in this case, is that


correct? A huge sporting star accused of murder, with live


television coverage of the trial beamed around the world. For OJ


Simpson in Los Angeles almost 20 years ago, read Oscar Pistorius in


Pretoria today. Count one is one of murder. From the start of the trial


last week, the BBC, in common with other broadcasters, has shown some


of the court proceedings live, along with regular updates to the case. It


didn't take long for the complaints to come rolling in, though, with Ian


Coxon from Nottingham wondering... It is an English willow cricket bat.


On Wednesday, a forensic analyst used a cricket bat to dispute Oscar


Pistorius's claim that he was wearing his artificial legs when he


tried to break open the bathroom door in his apartment and it


prompted more complaints to Newswatch.


Far too much airtime. I just am not interested. I know nobody who is


interested in a blow by blow account of this chap's life, love life and


his problems. OK, fine, tell us what happened. The guy's shot his


girlfriend, he is on trial for the murder and, at the end, a


conclusion. That's all we need to know. ?? FORCEDWHITE Courtroom


dramas are, of course, a staple of fiction on screen and on the page.


And the OJ Simpson murder trial nearly 20 years ago did draw


worldwide news coverage when it was televised. So perhaps it's no


surprise that broadcasters latch onto the real thing when there is


footage available. But what does the presence of the cameras do for the


legal process? Paul Wright from Cardiff has a concern about that,


asking... The dangers of lawyers acting up for


the cameras and of trial by television based on a few partial


sound bites are well-known. What lessons does the Oscar Pistorius


case have for the ongoing debate over cameras in court? With me to


discuss all that is the head of the BBC newsroom, Mary Hockaday. Mary,


can we start with the key underlying complaint, that this case is about a


celebrity and it has no major significance for British audiences.


And the coverage, to many, seems salacious and sensationalist? We


judge this to be an important news event. One of the many news stories


that we are covering at the moment. Oscar Pistorius is a man, both as a


Paralympian and also is a very prominent South African, which means


that the drama that is unfolding is of real interest to many people in


South Africa. But we found, also, to audiences both in the UK and abroad.


We've seen, actually, a lot of audience interest in the story,


although I recognise that audiences have different views and, for some


people, they don't necessarily want to see so much of the live coverage.


Others are very, very fascinated. ?? CAPNEXT There is an argument that


the BBC should just be more selective about what it shows. So


you could focus when Pistorius is giving evidence himself, and the


verdict. And these are the things that, eventually, you would focus on


in the bulletins. People feel there's just too much coverage of


too much? Of course, the reporting of any court case, it's really


important to be carrying both the prosecution case and the defence


case. Giving due weight and impartiality to the moments of key


evidence that help build up the case as a whole, and will ultimately


influence the jury's judgement and the audience watching. So we are


making judgements, we are being very selective, actually. But it is a


live event and we are choosing to take some of it live because we do


have an audience that is interested in that. But we are, of course,


mindful of some of the issues. What about the fact there are cameras in


this case, what do you think are the ramifications, if any, for Britain,


where there is an experiment going on with TV cameras in court? It's


very interesting, isn't it? The South African judge himself wanted


the court to be available as live broadcast because he wanted to show


South African justice working. He said, to challenge what he feared


might be some stereotypes about it. As you say, there's a lot of debate


about the pros and cons of televised court cases. America, here and so


on. You are right, in this country, a small experiment has begun


involving the Appeal Court, the Court of Appeal, whereby we and


other broadcasters are able to record and broadcast, on a short


time delay, some of the proceedings, not all, but some


proceedings from the Court of Appeal. There is further discussion


about if other courts should be filmed in that way. The balance


being between ensuring that justice can can act properly, but the notion


that there is merit in opening up these processes to the public gaze,


the transparency of institutions and so on. But showing a defendant


during a trial... I think you can see that happening, being tried in


South Africa. Do you expect that ever to happen here? We'll have to


see, won't we? As I say, small steps being taken. Very different in


America. A different kind of step being tried in South Africa. I think


the debate's a very real one. But we are only doing what other


broadcasters are doing as well, sometimes less. And we are doing it


always mindful of telling the story, mindful of respecting the court


process and, of course, abiding by whatever the restrictions are on


what we're able to film and to show. Mary Hockaday, thank you very much.


Do let us know your thoughts on that or any aspect of BBC News. Details


of how to contact us coming up at the end of the programme. Before we


leave the Oscar Pistorius trial, one more specific complaint we've


received following the language used on Monday's news bulletins. Let's go


back to South Africa and the trial of the Olympic athlete Oscar


Pistorius who threw up in court this morning during evidence, graphic


detail, when it was heard about his girlfriend. He did what? That phrase


used by Sophie Raworthand elsewhere, including in a trailer for the News


at Six, offended a number of Newswatch viewers, including Carol


Drummond, who asked... Now, BBC Three broadcasts a debate


show, Free Speech, for its younger audience, made by thesame production


house, Mentor, who make BBC One's Question Time. Last Wednesday, it


came live from Birmingham Central Mosque. The show generated a lot of


comments and, indeed, news coverage, because of what it didn't debate -


homosexuality. The question that had elicited the most comments on the


programme's audience questions page was put in a pre-recorded segment by


a gay Muslim called Asifa Lahore. One question I'd like to ask the


Muslim community is when will it be right to be Muslim and gay? We were


going to debate that question. But today, after speaking to the


mosque, they have expressed deep concerns with having this discussion


here. The mosque were happy for us to play that video, and we will talk


about it on our next programme, on March the 25th. So, we move onto our


next question. Well, that intervention before any of the panel


's studio audience had a chance to respond to the question received a


damning reaction by some on Twitter, with a viewer going by the


name of Mike Unlikely commenting... Well, the BBC has put out this


statement about why the discussion did not take place that night.


Finally, we have touched before about the dilemma of tone when


reporting the deaths of famous people, particularly if they were


politically divisive. This week saw obituaries for two prominent


left-wing figures. On Friday, former Labour minister and veteran MP Tony


Benn, and, on Wednesday, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and


Transport Union, Bob Crow. Mr Crowe was a controversial figure and


Vivian Coombs was one viewer who felt BBC News fails to reflect the


divisive nature of public the action. She wrote:


Thank you for your comments this week. If you want to share your


opinions on BBC News and current affairs, or even appear on the


programme, you can call us on: You can find us on Twitter and do


have a look at the website. That is all from us. We'll be back


to hear your thoughts about BBC news coverage again next week.


Hello, the weekend is upon us. For many of us, not too bad. There will


be some rain around, but for the vast majority it is going to be dry.


There will be some warm sunshine, particularly across more southern


parts of the country. It will be breezy, but that breeze has the


purpose of clearing the last of the fog away. No problems with fog, a


lot of cloud coupling


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