04/07/2014 Newswatch


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Hello and welcome to Newswatch with me, Samira Ahmed.


After the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, and


of one young Palestinian, tension flares up again in the Middle East.


Has the BBC reported this highly sensitive situation


As political claims about hospital waiting times are


disputed, the BBC's health editor is here to discuss the challenge


Of all the challenges BBC News faces, the one that produces


the most controversy is perhaps the requirement to achieve balance


and impartiality in its coverage of Israel and the Palestinian


The issue flared up again this week after the bodies were found of three


teenagers who had been abducted and murdered while hitch`hiking near


the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion in the occupied West Bank, and the


subsequent murder of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, as well


Some viewers applauded the BBC's reporting, such as


Rowan Summerville, who e`mailed after a live comment from the


Howard Isaacs took issue with an item on the BBC News website,


Most of the hundreds of complaints received this week though have been


We asked two viewers, who contacted us, to put their thoughts on camera.


For days they have shared the families torment, an entire


nation hoping and paying for the return of three teenage boys.


The tenure of the reporting was encouraging us to have sympathy


for the Israeli nation, with their sense of outrage and their grief.


While the murders, I agree, are deplorable, there are grieving


Really, the only mention of the Palestinians was


I felt that painted a very bad picture.


I didn't think the Palestinian viewpoint was being put across


By that, I mean the context of the daily lives that


The Israeli view on Hamas and really the political conditions in Israel


seem to overlay what was really a human story around a crime.


Rather than go after the criminals, Israel seemed to engage


I think the media didn't really pick up on that at all.


I'm pleased that in reporting since Tuesday there has been much more


balance and the Palestinian teenager who was recently found murdered,


I was really very pleased to see that.


My hope and my prayer is that, going forward, the Palestinian


people will be shown more equality and fairness, and being given


Well, we asked BBC News for their response to those views,


Now, BBC News has appointed its first health editor, Hugh Pym, who


was formally the Corporation's chief economics correspondent, he took up


Already, he will have found out it's a brief full of political


With a rising population and increasing demands on the NHS,


efficiency savings have had to be made to protect frontline services.


Now, health chiefs are warning for the next financial year


Soaring waiting lists, a funding crisis


and a GP system which is imploding, that was today's bleak warning from


the British Medical Association, which represents doctors.


With the general election less than a year away,


the temperature in the political debate over health is rising.


There is now a row over claims made by David Cameron over waiting times


at hospital Accident Emergency units in England.


Audiences tend to respond strongly and often emotionally


Newswatch viewers have always had plenty to say about this area.


One recurrent observation is summed up here by Gavin Pike.


Another concern is that the BBC, among other media,


has alarmed people by making too much of health scares over


the years, whether it is CJD, swine flu or notoriously the MMR vaccine.


Well, the BBC's new health editor, Hugh Pym, is with me now.


Hugh, can you start by explaining why the BBC felt the


need for a health editor and how far your coverage is being rethought?


Well, health is an extremely important


issue to all BBC viewers, listeners and consumers of online stories.


Obviously, the economy is a very big story as well.


I think the view was, you have a business editor, an economics


editor, political editor, a health editor, it should be a position that


the BBC has given the wide range of material that is out there, the


concerns that people have, as patients, the interest people


I'm very honoured and privileged to have


You've come from an economics background, and one might have said


` well, how much do you know about the medical side of health?


I've had a grounding, if you like, from a very young age.


I've seen the extraordinary professionalism of


people working in all areas of the NHS and watching my father at work.


Yes, I come from a non`health reporting


background, I think an economics background, I covered politics as


well, many of the political debates about the NHS over the last 20


years, I've been covering various different news organisations.


I think there is a certain layer of coverage which I will be looking


at, among other things, over the funding of the NHS.


How we can expect the NHS to develop in future years


with likely continued austerity, in terms of Government policy


What sort of services we can expect, to how we pay for it.


And, if you like, the whole debate about what the NHS


can do, faced with a rising population and rising demands.


There is a perceived media tendency to hype up health scares.


People do feel they look at BBC coverage and when there is a scare,


whether it's about avian flu, CJD or the MMR vaccine, a lot


of this coverage seems to actually add to perhaps a sense of panic?


The specialist health coverage provided by the BBC has always been


very careful, and in the medical world as well,


to cut through the different claims and counter claims of health scare


Not to do stories sometimes which are not based on really rigorous


scientific and peer reviewed research and not to major on things,


even if some other media are doing it, to try and give viewers


It's a difficult one, but I think the BBC has done pretty


It seems like it's getting more difficult.


In a way, your background in economics and politics seems


quite relevant because coverage of health is perhaps more politicised


Particularly, this idea that negative stories, whether about


health scares or about scandals of poor care at hospitals, these


are political in the way they are reported and that they might serve


I think, with nine or ten months to go to the general election, it is


What happens to health after the election?


Different claims and counter claims about this Government's record.


I'm totally aware there will be people who feel very strongly about


What would you say to reassure them, those who feel there is a bias,


They feel there is a BBC bias, or a lack of awareness


of how this coverage cumulatively undermines the NHS?


Well, I would take issue with the fact that BBC coverage


The BBC has highlighted some very positive initiatives.


There was a report, just out recently from a US think`tank,


the Commonwealth Fund, showing the NHS was one of the most efficient


I think the BBC does pick up stories like that and is keen


I did a story about GPs very recently.


The BMA saying that GPs were very worried about funding and Government


Equally, some initiatives, like one in north`West London where


GPs are working together to widen access to their patients.


That is showing the very best of the NHS.


Finally, there were wails of disappointment among tennis fans


on Wednesday as Andy Murray was knocked out of Wimbledon.


Bryan Hock was following reports of the tournament on the BBC News


He sent us screen grabs of two contrasting articles:


On Monday, when everything was going well for the reigning Champion,


the site crowed, "the Briton has yet to drop a set."


Two days later, the defeated Murray was referred to as, "the Scot."


Mr Hock was bemused by the discrepancy writing:


Thanks very much to all those who got in touch with us this week.


You too can share your opinions on BBC News and current affairs


and perhaps appear on the programme, just call us, e`mail:


If you ever miss a programme, you can catch up with the previous


We will be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News


what a day contrasting weather conditions out there. Highest


temperatures 29 degrees. More cloud and rain to the west. That will


continue to track eastwards over night tonight. Some of it turning


heavy as well as


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