25/11/2016 Newswatch


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areas of the country. At Ten, Fiona will be here with a


round-up of the day's news, first it's time for NewsWatch.


Hello and welcome to Newswatch with me, Samira Ahmed.


The Chancellor's Autumn Statement contained some good news and some


bad news about the prospects for the UK economy, but did the BBC


accentuate the negative and blame too much of it on Brexit?


And left out in the rain - was it really necessary for this


First, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump have both made considerable waves


in the news this year and this week they did so again in tandem.


The now interim Ukip leader joined a rally held by the President-elect


over the summer and was the first British politician to visit him


And on Monday came this - a tweet from Mr Trump,


saying that "many people would like to see Mr Farage


become British Ambassador to the United States.


The British government swiftly made it clear that there was no vacancy


for that position, but the proposal was still extensively


Some people felt that given the position of British ambassador


isn't in the gift of the US president, the story gained more


I was increasingly frustrated on Tuesday by the prominence given


on the BBC News and elsewhere to Donald Trump's extraordinary


tweets suggesting Nigel Farage would make a good ambassador to the USA.


And all of it missed the point in my view.


We don't do government by Twitter and we certainly don't use social


Downing Street on Monday night had said how ludicrous it was,


and yet the BBC on Tuesday seemed to be leading on it all the time.


Trump had also made other pronouncements, including this idea


that he was going to withdraw from the Pacific trade agreement.


That really is important, much more so than Mr Farage.


I wish the BBC would be a little less parochial in its editorial


decisions and take the wider sweep that it used to take,


Now, when the history of 2016 is written, the term "Brexit" -


already chosen by one dictionary as its word of the year -


will undoubtedly feature prominently.


One area where the actual and potential consequences of June's


vote have been much discussed is that of the economy.


Much of course is disputed here, but it seems pretty clear


that the decision to leave the European Union has led to a fall


in the value of the pound, as highlighted last month


by the BBC's economics editor, Kemal Ahmed.


It's certainly been a rocky ride for the pound.


Here's the beginning of the month, when the pound was valued at $1.30,


but it began to fall after Theresa May suggested Britain


would not only be leaving the European Union, but the EU


free market as well, which many economists


see as a poor option, and then on Friday the flash crash,


down to $1.14, as automatic computer trading drove down the price.


The extent to which that fall is a good or bad thing


is the subject of strong debate, and some viewers have told us


they think BBC News has misrepresented its effects.


This week, in the build-up to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement,


On the News Channel's Outside Source on Monday, business editor


Simon Jack articulated one of the questions being asked


What happens on the morning after we leave the European Union?


Because once you've triggered the process, you've got two years.


If you haven't got some things in place by then


are you going to fall off into this regulatory and trading no man's


land, this cliff edge that some people are talking about?


And on Wednesday's News at Ten, after Philip Hammond had


delivered his statement in the House of Commons, there was no mistaking


the link between the state of the UK's finances


The Chancellor has delivered his Autumn Statement, praising


the resilience of the British economy, but the scale


of the challenge with the Brexit process ahead became clear


Slower growth, higher inflation, weaker tax receipts


Mary Thomas spoke for a number of viewers when she e-mailed her


thoughts on the BBC's recent economic coverage.


And Tom Morris-Jones agreed, writing...


Well, Simon Jack has come to the Newswatch studio to address


Everything does seem to be happening through the prism of Brexit.


Is that fair, given that we don't know how it's going to happen?


That's interesting, because as one of your last correspondents wrote,


there are lots of factors that affect the economy,


interest rates, jobless numbers, those kinds of things -


those kinds of things happen all the time.


But I don't think we can ignore the fact we've got one new massive


variable here to think about, and that is what's going to happen


when we leave the European Union, and I think if I look


through the Autumn Statement coverage the BBC did this week,


we're looking at numbers that the last time we got


the financial watchdog to have a look at the economy


We look at it now in November post-Brexit.


Well, the vote to leave the European Union.


So I think it's not surprising that people were looking to see


what has changed in the view of the independent watchdog


And so we focused a little bit on that, saying what did


they think the economic picture looked like then,


and what do we think it looks like now.


As it happens the OBR thinks the economic outlook


This is an independent watchdog appointed by the government,


which the Chancellor himself has to respond to.


If that forecast is going to impact tax and spending decisions,


what he actually decides to do, then we have a duty to report on it


and in those numbers they said they thought that the impact


That's the number we have to report, because that's the number


that's going to affect what the Chancellor actually does.


Everyone agrees that the pound has fallen sharply since


Some viewers are saying, have the BBC focused too much


I think there might be fair criticism in a sense,


Lots of people did think the pound was overvalued,


a lot of economists thought it was a bit high against


the dollar and the euro, and this is a good thing.


Having said that, for most people, we all go abroad a little bit every


day when we buy stuff in the shops, and the fact is we import


more than we export, and that means the stuff coming


into the country is going to get that bit more expensive,


so the cost of living is going to rise.


I would say you look at things like the trade deficit


and balance of payments, what most people care


about is the cost of what they do when they go shopping,


So by focusing on that I think we are focusing on the thing most


relevant to people's lives, the thing they'll notice first.


I think it's legitimate to look at that.


I would accept there is some positive news


In fact, just today, as we are speaking, we've got some


numbers that actually exports in the last month actually went up,


so there are positive benefits and we do report them,


but we have to take a judgment on which we think are the most


When it comes to inflation we think that's it.


Is there a tendency to emphasise bad news?


Not paying off that debt as fast as hoped?


The OBR saying wages are going to stagnate badly,


Think on the Autumn Statement when we had those forecasts.


There were lots of gloom around those economic forecasts


and we had to report that, because that's what the body


the government has to respond to actually said.


But what I would say is even in my own reporting I've stood


outside the factory gates at Nissan, we've reported on Facebook,


on Google, all of whom have made big economic investments


All of those stories ran either at the top or very high on the Six


and Ten O'Clock News and had prime locations on our website.


If I can return to the OBR forecasts for a minute,


I think what we made very clear is this is not fact,


this is not predicting the future - these are forecasts -


and my colleague Laura Kuenssberg, our political editor,


These are just forecasts, they might be wrong.


But a body of experts has been charged with coming up with its best


guess as to what's going to happen and the Chancellor has


to respond to it, and that's what they came up with.


Experts, so this is the issue, isn't it?


You have to rely on them to make forecasts and explain what may lie


ahead, but we all know they get it wrong sometimes.


They got it wrong with saying Britain would be better off


Does the BBC need to rethink how it uses what experts say?


This has been a massive issue, hasn't it?


We've all had enough of experts, said some politicians.


I think you have to listen to what some of the most esteemed


people in any profession say about something,


and one of the things we struggled with in the run up and after Brexit


was what kind of balance do we give to different opinions and experts,


and what the wrong thing to do is to try and achieve false balance.


So for example we were very clear that the weight of economic


and business opinion, by and large, was actually in favour of remain.


The balance was not even, and we had to report


what the real weight of opinion was on the weigh-in.


Finally there was some very bad weather around in the early part


of the week and that had an impact on an item


Gareth Southgate was being interviewed for the post of England


manager at the Football Association headquarters and viewer


I was interested in this particular topic.


I soon found my interest had completely evaporated


because I was more concerned at the conditions the poor


There's no announcement expected today, or indeed by


To me, there were reasonable opportunities for shelter,


but he stood there in the teeming rain, the rain running


down his face, running down his brow, dripping off his nose


and I completely forgot and was distracted


from the main topic, that is the selection of the England


Health and safety, the welfare and comfort of the journalists seem


to be completely overridden, so come on, BBC, you can


We need to find you an umbrella, thank you very much for joining us.


Thank you for that and for all your comments this week.


Please do contact us with your opinions on BBC News


and current affairs by telephone, on...


Do have a look at our website for previous discussions.


We'll be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News coverage


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