19/02/2016 Newswatch


19/02/2016

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been violent clashes in parts of the capital, Kampala. At 10pm, Sophie

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Ray Werth will be here with a full round-up of the day's news. First,

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it is time for Newswatch. Hello, welcome to Newswatch,

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with me, Samira Ahmed. On this week's programme:

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Allegations of bias and a lack of balance in the BBC's coverage

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of the EU are likely to increase How can the corporation ensure

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it treats both sides And, do reports of a former Pope's

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friendship with a married woman try It is certain to be one of the most

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contentious subjects the BBC will be Many people have fixed

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and passionately held views on whether the UK should leave

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or remain in the EU. And how BBC News presents

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the argument on both sides is sure to be scrutinised very

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carefully indeed. David Cameron's negotiations

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with his fellow EU leaders have been a lengthy and tricky process,

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but the arguments over in-work benefits for migrants,

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the emergency brake, ever closer union and the rest of it

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will be just as fiercely fought And they will be fought

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largely on the airwaves. The BBC have a commitment to due

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impartiality and independence from political influence,

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particularly during election But how to enforce such a commitment

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when much about membership of the EU Already, the complaints have been

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coming into Newswatch, with Bob writing on Thursday

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and representing the majority point By contrast, Victoria had this

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to say about a recent news report: It is clear that not everybody

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is likely to be satisfied by the campaign coverage,

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but how will the BBC be at least be News programmes and bulletins

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try to allocate equal That could prove difficult when most

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of the leading figures in mainstream political parties

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are in the stay camp. And there is a worrying

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precedent for the BBC - coverage of the Scottish referendum

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campaign 17 months ago was heavily criticised by those favouring

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independence, who thought the corporation displayed

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pro-Westminster bias. Will it again be charged

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with showing too much sympathy To try and answer some of those

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questions I'm joined now by Ric Bailey, the BBC's

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Chief Political Adviser. It feels like there is already a lot

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of tension out there about alleged I think it's true of referendums

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that the passions are very hard People feel very strongly

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about referendums, because, by their nature, they are polarised

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and they are binary. It is a choice

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between that and that. And so any referendum is a real

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challenge for impartiality. And of course when you are talking

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about the European Union, something which is so important

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to the UK's future, of course What we have to do is

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balance the arguments. So we're not necessarily

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balancing the two campaigns, although of course we will hear

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from both of them, but the most important thing for the electorate

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and for the audience is that we are balancing

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the arguments on the Remain side Is that then really boiling down

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to a matter of equal airtime I mean, there will be people

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watching with stopwatches, won't there, and

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counting the minutes? We are very clear that

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you don't judge impartiality Of course it's important,

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it would be wrong to have twice as much air time for one side

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as the other, but that is not the be Actually, impartiality is a much

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more subtle judgment on that. You have got to think about the two

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arguments, you have got to think about fairness,

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about tone, about There many different aspects

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to impartiality that go way As we heard, the BBC was very

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strongly attacked by the SNP during the Scottish referendum

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campaign for allegedly being pro-Westminster,

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which meant pro keeping the union. Most Westminster parties officially

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back remaining in the EU. So where does that leave

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the BBC, on balance? We have to be very clear

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in the debate on the referendum that this is not between parties,

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this is about an argument And we will have to represent

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the wider range of views on both sides, it is not just a single view

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on each side. Many political parties,

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quite a wide range of parties, will be on one side,

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there will be many voices on the other side, and we have

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to balance those. We absolutely, I think if you look

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at the BBC's reputation globally, I don't think it is for necessarily

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always going with the Establishment, of course part of our job

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is to scrutinise the Establishment and Government, and to scrutinise

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the status quo, if you like. Because most of the interviews tend

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to be from established political parties, there is already a sense

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from viewers that that means that there tend to be more guests

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who are pro remaining in the EU, and that is why

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they say it has bias. That is assuming this is only

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going to be a referendum This is a referendum in which people

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are being asked individually to vote They are not being asked

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to back a particular party, they are being asked,

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when they vote in this referendum, And they say it won't just be

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politicians we will hear from. Viewers complained that to this

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point it feels as if they have been So you are saying that's

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going to change, then? Of course, the story so far has

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been about the deal, what the Prime Minister

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is doing in Brussels. Once the referendum campaign starts,

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it will be very clearly balanced Even up to now we have been very

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careful whilst representing the views of the Prime Minister

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and the political parties, who are all on one side,

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also to hear the other voices. At the moment, there is no

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figurehead for the Leave campaign I go back to the idea that this

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is an argument, this is between the argument and not

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between the individuals So part of the story

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is what is happening And of course we will cover that,

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it is important that people understand what those arguments

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are on the Leave side. But it doesn't mean that that

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disrupts if you like the idea It looks more divided,

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a figurehead kind of crystallises people's attention, you have got one

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on one side and none on the other. Part of our obligation

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during the referendum campaign is to hear from the range of voices

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on both sides, and, you know, you have to look at the Remain side

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to see how many different political parties and views from business

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and so when you will hear, and on the Leave side,

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to know that over a very long campaign, 16 weeks,

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our job is to represent a lot of those views across much

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of our output. It's not to channel this

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into a single position. Over the next few months we are sure

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to be looking again at how the EU referendum campaign is covered,

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so please let us know your thoughts

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