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him. `` has not had to go to prison. And now we ask this BBC coverage
risk being a platform for militants? Hello, and welcome to Newswatch.
With air strikes, parliamentary votes and hostage videos, Islamist
militants are very much in the headlines. But if the BBC helping
the propaganda war? Why did the BBC's royal correspondent disappear
from the Scottish bridge last Friday evening? And indiscreet, perhaps,
but can't a man have a private conversation without it being
broadcast all over the world? Whether you call that an Islamic
State, ISIS or ISIL, and we will be coming to that later, the radical
Islamist group which has seized land in Syria and Iraq in the past few
months now unquestionably dominates the news agenda. US led air strikes
against the militants began on Monday night. On Tuesday, a second
video was released featuring journalist John Cantlie, kidnapped
in Syria in 2012. And the threat to kill another British hostage, Alan
Henning, remains. It is all worthwhile when you see
what is needed to get to actually wear it needs to go. He is the taxi
driver from Salford, held hostage by Islamic State. Tonight, Alan
Henning's wife Barbara begged for his release. She said she had
received an audiophile of Alan pleading for his life.
All this presents considerable challenges to journalists. The
obvious dangers of kidnapped in reporting from Syria and Iraq, the
distress of the facts of the story, with difficult judgements of taste
and decency for editors back in London. Then there is the risk of
providing a platform for the terrorists. Doug Graham is one fewer
concerned by that. There is also the issue of the
terminology used to describe these crimes and their perpetrators,
picked up in this e`mail by Paul Lodwick.
That last point was echoed by Neal Hastings.
Well, to discuss all that, the BBC's deputy director of news and
current affairs joins me now. Fran, we have spoken on Newswatch recently
about the principle that the BBC does use some stills and sometimes
audio from hostage videos, but given that there seemed to be more and
more of these videos coming out, doesn't the BBC need to rethink
whether it uses them at all? Absolutely. We need to reassess, as
we go along, exactly how we treat these videos. Whether we will ever
get to the point where we will say we will not use any of them at all,
in some cases we might do that, if we thought there was no public
interest served by it. But what we have to do here is balance a number
of different things, which is, I duty to inform versus the taste and
decency issues, and also, as you have described, the platform of the
oxygen of publicity issue. And balancing all these things can be
quite tricky, and to lead to tricky editorial judgements, which we must
constantly keep under review, as you suggest. Let's talk about language.
A lot of viewers questioned the taste of news constantly talking
about the details of how the hostages were beheaded. Or even the
word executed. Shouldn't you just say murdered? We do say murdered in
some instances. Executed probably tends to imply, although I don't
think this is actually the definition of it, a legal process.
And obviously there hasn't been a legal process in any of these cases.
Beheaded, well, I think it is actually quite important to know how
these people died, which is particularly gruesome. Then there is
the language of how this group is described. Islamic State, ISIS,
ISIL. Even politicians vary how they describe them. Even if you use the
qualifications so called, a lot of viewers are concerned that this
group are not an organised, legitimate political power, but they
are being talked about in a way which gives them legitimacy. This is
quite a tricky issue, because what we are seeking to do here is just
explain to the audience who it is that we are talking about. They
chose to call themselves Islamic State. You can imply whatever
meaning you think attaches itself to that, but that is what they call
themselves. Politicians are calling them something different, and we
have two actually reflects that as well, because of the politician is
calling them ISIL, then we also have to say the Islamic State, sometimes
known as ISIL, which we do in some of our coverage. But if we start to
decide ourselves what they are called, then I am not sure how
appropriate that is either. The BBC has engaged with British jihadists
in the region to try to understand what is going on and why they are
going up. But there is a concern that the BBC could be a kind of
platform for their propaganda. The interest that some media show in
tracing Jihadi John, for example, distresses a lot of viewers. This is
obviously a very tricky issue, and we don't particularly want to be
providing a platform for people with very extreme views. However, our job
is about understanding as well. I think that what our policy is here
is to show enough of this that we think would answer any questions of
public interest that people have about them. So, for instance, if you
take Jihadi John, so`called Jihadi John, we use some of the audio of
this person to show that they were British. It was quite clear from
their accent. And they were probably from the London area. Also, there is
an argument for putting this out, because somebody might be able to
identify him, which might be of help to the authorities. Fran, thank you
very much for coming on Newswatch. Do let us know your thoughts on
that, or on any aspect of BBC News. And stay with us for details on how
to get in touch. Now for some of your other concerns this week,
starting with an apology from the BBC for showing some footage of
Jimmy Savile on a repeat of an old edition of top of the pops a couple
of weeks ago. The BBC's News article website featured, you guessed it, a
photograph of the disgraced disc jockey. Ingrid Green did not
appreciate the irony. The fallout from last week's
referendum in Scotland will be felt for some time politically, and it
has continued to have an impact on our inbox over the past week. During
last Friday's News at 6pm, the reaction of the Queen to the
referendum result was `` result was keenly awaited. Within the last few
minutes, a statement from the Queen has been published. Our royal
correspondent has the details for us at Balmoral. Nicholas, what does it
say? I'm sorry, we seem to have a few difficulties trying to get a
hold of Nicholas. Apologies for that.
Five minutes later we did get to hear something of Her Majesty's
statement, but with these results. Do not, as they say, adjust your
set. For many in Scotland and elsewhere today, there will be
strong feelings and contrasting emotions among family, friends and
neighbours. That, of course, is the nature of the robust, Democratic...
INAUDIBLE I am so sorry for that.
Despite our best efforts to talk to Nicholas Witchell in Balmoral, we
are not managing. We will try later again in the programme.
Technical problems do sometimes occur, of course. But Caroline
Holmes made this point. There were more royal ramifications
of the independence vote on Tuesday, when, to the Prime Minister's great
embarrassment, this footage was aired on the BBC and elsewhere.
After that conversation with former New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg Cameron said he would apologise in
person to the Queen when they next meet.
Do let us know whether you think it was inappropriate for BBC News to
have reported that conversation. And we welcome all your opinions on BBC
News and current affairs. Yours may feature next week, and you may even
appear on the programme. That is all from us. We will be back
to hear your thoughts about BBC News coverage again next week. Goodbye.