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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