10/05/2014 Newswatch


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Welcome to Newswatch. An ongoing challenge for the BBC. As


distressing details 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, or names that glorify his


crimes? `` Skull Cracker. And with BBC News slow to report on the


schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, 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 girls, 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. `` for decades.


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


Everybody knows we have to report the stories, that it is


uncomfortable, and sometimes you have had three abuse stories in a


half`hour bulletin, you can see why 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 led 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 the 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? And should you? It seems there


really isn't any difference in the amount of detail given after 9:00pm,


maybe we have to rethink about what goes out at breakfast and daytime.


We are very conscious of the watershed, and 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 as 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, are now exposed to this


sort of content. That is serious matter that everybody, including


families and parents. In a way, we have to accept that we don't talk


about these things in the way we did 20 years ago? We are becoming aware


as a society of 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,


and the particular issues around the Internet. In the end, this is


difficult because the audience varies. Families, and how they talk


about things vary, 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 is 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?


Because these 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 itself 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 Wheatley, who was recaptured


on Thursday after absconding from an open prison. Objections talked about


what some saw as sensationalised 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 society. One viewer was prompted by the coverage to write in


for 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 schoolgirls by the Islamist Nigerian group, but it is 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 Elena Baltacha at just 30.


In the news at 10:00pm they included it in their headlines as follows.


The world of tennis remembers Elena Baltacha, the former England number


one, who has died of cancer at the age of 30.


Finally, on Thursday came news that Colin Pullinger had died. On that


day's news at 1:00, it reported on the man best known for his attempt


to land the Beagle spacecraft on Mars, but did his scientific gifts


extend beyond that? We 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 enthused 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. Hello there. Sunshine and showers,


with an area


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