06/01/2017 Newswatch


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an honour. At ten o'clock there will be a full round-up of the news but


now it is time for the turn of Newswatch with Samira Ahmed looking


at the role of language in news headlines.


Hello and welcome to the first Newswatch of 2017 with me,


Samira Ahmed, where we'll be rounding up some of the comments


you've made about BBC News since we went off air before


Jill Saward died this week, but should


the BBC News website have described her in its


headline as a campaigner rather than as a victim?


And the year of celebrity deaths ended with several more,


Did the BBC lose perspective over the extent of its coverage?


First, the New Year has brought no respite from the terrorist attacks


that have become a regular feature of news broadcasts.


On Sunday came the latest atrocity, targeting those enjoying a night out


NEWS READER: Less than two hours into the New Year,


a gunman opened fire outside, bullets ricocheting as he shot


Another camera showed people cowering as the attacker struck,


Inside, his killing spree continued - Turks and foreigners murdered,


others jumping into the freezing Bosphorus to escape.


39 people have died in the attack and the coverage of it raised


questions we have heard before from Newswatch viewers


Now, how much TV news coverage did you want from the BBC


Some may have appreciated a break from what can be a fairly


grim diet of stories, but with many normal bulletins


dropped or shortened, others feel they were underserved,


including on the BBC's 24-hour news channel.


One annual staple of news coverage which did appear


Much of the focus was on sports stars, as described by Andy Swiss,


and pop stars and actors, reported on by Lizo Mzimba.


At the end of a glittering year for British sport,


for five of its greatest stars the greatest of honours.


Patricia Routledge has been made a dame.


Kinks frontman Ray Davis said he felt humility


Victoria Beckham becomes an OBE for services


Anthony Hainsworth took exception to the balance of the reporting,


And celebrity culture was at the heart of another series


of complaints on what's sadly become a very familiar theme in 2016.


Here's the start of BBC One's late bulletin on Christmas Day.


In the last hour the death has been announced of


George Michael shot to fame in the 1980s as half of the band


Wham and went on to have a hugely successful solo career.


He sold more than 80 million records worldwide.


The whole news bulletin tonight, apart from ten minutes, has been


It's time you reported the real news.


George Michael's was of course not the only death to be reported


on the BBC over the past couple of weeks, as the viewers


on the BBC over the past couple of weeks, as other viewers


It's the 27th of December and today, the BBC News and Channel 130


An enormously long one for Carrie Fisher, there's still


contributions on George Michael, the author Richard Adams and about


There's so many important things happening in this world.


Good morning, every time I switch on the news to find out what's


happening in the world, all I see is an endless film of yet


another pop star who has taken himself to an early grave.


Sad for friends and family but, please, could you please


Thursday saw the death of Jill Saward, a long-term


campaigner for the rights of survivors and victims of sexual


violence, having herself been raped at the age of 21.


The news was widely and prominently reported at the BBC.


With George Alagiah tweeting that he was proud that TV's six


o'clock bulletin led on her life and influence.


But when the story broke the BBC News alert and the website


headlined its report of her death like this - using the word "victim".


Prompting many complaints, like this one from Becky Stevens, on Twitter.


Surely Jill was so much more than a rape victim.


She was a survivor and successful campaign for the rights of others.


Christopher Oxford called it a shamefully reductionist headline.


Ms Saward was not defined by once being a victim,


And Eleanor Hill thought it was an appalling headline.


We put this to BBC News, and they referred to a 2004 BBC


interview in which Jill Saward said that she had no complaint


about being described as the Ealing vicarage rape victim,


as it enabled her to challenge politicians and work for change.


A BBC spokesman added, we are always very careful to report


sensitively on the news of someone's death and we covered in detail


Ms Saward's extensive work as a sexual assault campaigner.


Ms Saward was the first person in the UK to be raped


and waive her right to anonymity, and hers was one of the most


high-profile criminal cases of the decade,


the reason why she is so well-known and which led


Well, another issue of language cropped up at the end of last year


in relation to the death of another woman.


Georgina Symonds was killed a year ago by Peter Morgan,


who was sentenced four days before Christmas to life in


This was the headline on the News at Six that night.


Life for the property developer millionaire


Once I'd sort of attempted to murder her, I'd be in a hell


of a lot of trouble for that, and she could have still gone


So no mention of Georgina Symonds' name there, but the one word


was used there and online which worried a number of viewers.


In response, BBC News told us this:


Well, it's clear that the language used in reporting a death


and especially the shorthand of a headline can give great offence


to an audience, and that especially applies to suicide.


Since we were last on air, we have had two examples of that.


One following a story on Breakfast about a rowing trip


across the Atlantic raising money for a crisis centre in memory of one


We wish you all the best, stay safe, and hopefully we will pick


up with you when you reach Antigua at the end of January,


That is Sam, Toby, Rory and Harry, who are rowing the Atlantic to try


and raise money for Harry's brother who committed suicide ten years ago.


Rosalind Allen was watching that and e-mailed us with her response.


A couple of days earlier, the phrase had also been


used on the news ticker, scrolling across the bottom


of the screen during an overnight bulletin and then, for this caller


The ribbons running across the bottom has an item,


news story, chief resigns after overworked employee


20 or so news items after that, the next statement standing alone


reads "I tried to kill myself several times."


In the early hours of the morning, when vulnerable people


it reads "I tried to kill myself several times."


I object strongly to this, this is sickening.


Again, we asked BBC News for a statement on issues of


language about suicide and they told us:


Well, thank you for all of your comments this week.


As a New Year gets under way on Newswatch,


we would like you to tell us what topics you would like us


to cover, which news figures we should be interviewing.


You can give us your opinion on BBC News current affairs


and you can be quoted, or even appear on the programme.


You can find us on Twitter and do have a look at our


That's all from us, we will be back to hear what you thought of the BBC


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