09/05/2014 Newswatch


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Now it's time for Newswatch. This week Samira Ahmed looks at the


difficulty of reporting on allegations of abuse.


Currently ongoing challenge for the BBC, as distressing are aired in the


trial of Stuart Hall and elsewhere, so how should the news report abuse


allegations, especially at times when children might be watching?


Should this man have been so widely described on air as the Scull


Cracker, orders that glorify his crimes? And with BBC news slow to


report on the school 's kidnapped in Nigeria Daschle was BBC news slow?


Since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke in 2012, news bulletins are


regularly featured celebrities who've been accused of a range of


sexual offences. It has made for some extremely upsetting reports


which, by some viewers, particularly those with children, have gone into


too much detail at too great a length. This week has proved no


exception. Friday saw the trial of Rolf Harris start at Southwark Crown


Court. The artist and entertainer denies all 12 charges made against


him of indecent assault against poor girl is said to have taken place


between 1968 and 1986. Also in court this week has been BBC broadcaster


Stuart Hall who denies 20 charges of rape and indecent assault between


1976 and 1981. They were alleged to have taken place at two former BBC


studios in Manchester. On Tuesday it emerged that entertainer Freddie


Starr will not be prosecuted over sex offence allegations because of


insufficient evidence on the claims. Last Friday, Max Clifford was jailed


for eight years for a string of historic indecent assaults against


girls and young women, the first conviction arriving at the operation


Investigations. Such distressing crimes have been reported the


decades and few would deny that they are in the public interest but the


frequency with which they've recently been beamed into sitting


rooms raises the questions of the effect it has.


Let's talk through these issues with the head of the BBC newsroom.


Everybody knows we have to report the story is that it is


uncomfortable and sometimes you have had three abuse stories and a


half`hour bulletin, you can see what viewers are concerned. It's


something we talk a lot about in the newsroom. We can't control when the


stories arise, and for a couple of reasons, it's absolutely right that


there are many of them coming through, day after day, we have to


report them, because they're part of the news agenda. Following the case


of Jimmy Savile, that in itself lead to other figures in historic crimes


being investigated, and once you get one of the stories, they can lead to


others as police investigate more, or members of the public come


forward. We've seen that with a question of abuse in schools, which


is another issue coming into the news agenda. We cannot control when


the news gods decide that the stories will happen. It is our job


to report them. There is the idea of a watershed, and that at tea`time,


can you report this in a different way? It seems there really isn't any


difference in the amount of detail given after 9pm maybe we have to


rethink about what goes out at breakfast and daytime. A career we


are regulated in a way that means we take it seriously so I hope that


viewers will notice and appreciate that we are very careful in the use


of language. The language we use is often the language of the court, so


it's our job is part of court reporting to report accurately what


the charges are, which means we will be using phrases like sexual


assault. We will use the word rape. There is a lot of detail that we do


not give. What about the wider discussions that happen? For


example, discussing pornography at breakfast? I do have a lot of


sympathy with the e`mails coming to you. Our view is that we covered the


topic very responsibly and I really don't think that it in any way was


normalising pornography. It was based on the shocking evidence that


a lot of children, because of social media and the Internet now exposed


to this sort of content. That is serious matter that everybody,


including families and parents. Seven away we have to accept that we


talk about these things and away we did 20 years ago? We are becoming


aware a society that `` things we weren't aware of before. You might


say that this is a good thing, that we are able to talk


straightforwardly, carefully and responsibly, about some of the


things that happened Tom and the particular issues around the


Internet. In the end, this is difficult because the audience


varies. Families and how they talk about things varies and I recognise


that viewers will have to make their own personal decisions about whether


to switch off or not, depending on the age of their children, the


extent to which it is something that they want the news to prompt


discussion about. It's also possible for viewers to keep an ear out in


the headlines because often you will be able to tell whether there is a


story that is prominent and maybe make a judgement whether to turn off


before the coverage gets going, or at least to be alert to the fact


that it's coming and how you will handle it with children. Is that


what people will have to do question other cases are not reducing in


number, so I wonder how far the BBC has to think about changing how they


cover it, or will parents have to accept that they make the decision


themselves? It is not new that this is part of the agenda. We are part


of a particular sequence of court cases, and that phase will work it


self through. That does not mean we won't find new cases coming along or


news stories or issues which have, at the heart of it, some aspects


which are to do with sexual behaviour. That won't go away. Mary,


thank you. We are here to air your opinions on


BBC News, so do get in touch, and will be telling you how to do so


shortly. Before that, some of you have been in touch about the


reporting of the escaped convict, Michael Wigley, who is recaptured on


Thursday after absconding from an open prison `` Michael Wheatley.


Objections talked about sensationalise language, including


this headline on Friday morning. An armed robber known as the Skull


Cracker, who spent five days on the run from prison is due in court for


raiding a building `` building society. One viewer was prompted by


the coverage to write into the first time.


In the past few days, there has been plenty of attention from BBC News on


the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian school groups by the


Islamist Nigerian group, but it's almost four weeks since the girls


were seized, and some groups told us that they felt it took the global


news audience to remind us through social media that this was a story


that the public wanted to hear about.


Monday's news bulletins featured the death of a lane about Thatcher at


just 30. In the news at ten and included it in their headlines as


follows. The world of tennis remembers Elena Balatcha, the former


England number one, who has died of cancer at the age of number 30 ``


age 30. Finally, on Thursday came news that


Colin Pullinger had died. On that day's news that one, it was reported


on the man best known for his attempt to land the Beagle


spacecraft on Mars, but did his scientific gifts extend beyond that


question must look out for the on`screen date caption at the end of


this. Although he was not successful in landing Beagle on Mars, his


efforts inspire the nation. It introduced a new generation to


science and the wonders of space travel. He reached for the stars,


and persuaded others that they could as well.


Peter Smith from Dartford was one of those to spot the mistake.


Thank you for all of your comments. Next week we will talk to Ian Katz,


the editor of Newsnight, so give us your questions for him, and also any


aspect of BBC news and current affairs.


We'll be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News coverage again next


week. Until then, goodbye. Turning into a pretty wet night out


there and that will get is in the mood for what is a far from settled


weekend. There will be blustery showers around, it will be cold in


the wind but not a complete wash`out. There will be some


sunshine at times for nearly all of this. It has already started turning


wet across southwestern parts `` all of us. The southwestern high




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