21/01/2017 Newswatch


21/01/2017

Viewers' comments on BBC News coverage, with Samira Ahmed. Is the BBC obsessed with the potential downsides of Brexit?


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Transcript


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Hello. Welcome to Newswatch. Coming up on this programme. The Prime

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Minister reveals more of the Government's plans for leaving the

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European Union. But is the BBC obsessed with the potential

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downsides of Brexit? And the BBC Trust says a report about Jeremy

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Corbyn's policies on shoot to kill was inaccurate but the corporation's

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director of news rejects the finding. What's going on?

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In the build-up to it Donald Trump's inauguration the BBC broadcast a

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number of reports about the 45th President of the United States.

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Monday's panorama, for example, asked whether he was the Kremlin's

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candidate for the job? The reporter has a habit of testy on air

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encounters as demonstrated in this programme and in a clip from a 2013

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interview with Donald Trump. Maybe you are thick, but when you

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have a signed contract you can't in this country just break it. By the

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way, John, I hate to do this but I have a big group of people

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waiting... One last question, please, sir. I have to leave, thank

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you. Hold on a second, please, tell me about the man murdered 100

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yards... You think he was... He was critical of Putin. Can you list the

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number of American journalists who have died under Obama? It is

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completely stupid kind of conversation. OK. Very good. I am

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very nice to meet you. But I don't like to continue.

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Ian was watching that and thought: On Monday, this was the third

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headline on BBC's News at Six. Also on tonight's programme, crisis in

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Stormont. Today Sinn Fein will not renominate for the position of

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deputy firs Minister. New elections in Northern Ireland as

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power sharing collapses. Some viewers felt that such dramatic

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and significant political news from Northern Ireland merited more

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attention from the BBC which didn't lead with that story on any of its

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main bulletins. As Kevin put it on Twitter:

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Since last June's close and hotly debated referendum, the arguments

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about how Britain will leave the European Union have raged on. This

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week gave us some clarity on the issue with the Prime Minister's

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speech on Tuesday but it certainly didn't mark an end to the arguments

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about how easy or successful the process might prove to be.

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Parliament will have a vote on the final deal but already the criticism

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has started. If all her optimism of a deal with the European Union

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didn't work, we would move into a low tax, corporate taxation bargain

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basement economy. I am not prepared for Scotland to be taken down a path

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that I firmly believe is going to be damaging. Businesses are very

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worried that getting that deal in principle within two years is

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unrealistic and that what we might do is then fall off a cliff into

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this regulatory and trade no-man's-land and people have warned

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that would be very damaging. This is one day, 24 hours in what's going to

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be a long, complicated, fraught and difficult process. There are people

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here in Westminster still and more importantly perhaps on the other

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side of the negotiating table, those 27 countries who believe what she's

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asking for is a delusion. Several viewers got in touch to

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complain of what they saw as a lack of balance in the coverage.

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Elizabeth asked: And other viewers echoed that, such

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as Arthur Smith who e-mailed: Let's talk about this to Katie Sell,

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the editor of BBC political news who joins us from our Westminster

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studio. Let's start with the complaints about who is getting air

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time. Many viewers are saying too many voices giving initial reaction

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to May's speech are hostile to Brexit and essentially the BBC is

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rehashing the debate that we had in the referendum? I think the job as

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journalists and it's true whether it's at the BBC or across other

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media or indeed the newspapers, is to question and ask for answers that

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we don't have. The country voted for Brexit but it is really left many

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questions unanswered. Actually, on Tuesday when the Prime Minister gave

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her speech we gave a great deal of coverage to the speech itself which

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set out the arguments and the plans for Brexit from the Government. But

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it did leave many, many questions unanswered. You heard there from

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Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon with their own questions, so we are

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not just asking the questions just from the BBC's point of view,

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although we would do that as journalists, we are putting the

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concerns of the other main politicians in this country to try

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to get some answers and the answers that we don't have.

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Part of that concern is about the language used by reporters, a lot of

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people are very concerned. Is there too much hypothetical worry, rather

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than straight reporting what the Prime Minister said? We did a piece

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that ran at about five-and-a-half minutes for the main Six and Ten

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news programmes that night and that's a very long piece for news at

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that point. We did that specifically because we wanted to give people,

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the audience, a chance to hear the Prime Minister's case on what was a

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defining speech from the Government. So, I think we did give air time to

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that. As I say, this is then the opportunity to say hang on, we are

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trying to do the job for the audience which is to raise questions

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they may have in their mind and answer questions they may think,

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well, she didn't really explain that. What does that mean? And why

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would we do that? So it's very much our job as journalists to try and do

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that for the audience. That's part of what we are for, is to try and

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get to the answers and try and give some clarity where there is perhaps

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none coming from the Government. It sounds from some of the viewers'

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complaints we are getting that the BBC might say we are dealing with

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where there is concerns and questions and in a sense you are

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looking for the drama, but perhaps the BBC needs to rethink the tone in

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which it covers these things and the assumptions made? Certainly, I would

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agree that the tone is absolutely vital and that's true of any story

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that we cover. We think carefully about this. We try and - we look at

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our scripts over again, we think about the words we use. I would be

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very careful if we were adopting a tone that was reflected one side or

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the other. The BBC continues to be committed to impartiality and that's

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true of the Brexit debate as it is on any other subject. Is it as

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simple as the BBC more often needs a caveat, more that we just don't

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know, or what a lot of this is going to mean? That's absolutely true, and

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we do that, one of the things we have set up in the last couple of

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years is the BBC's Reality Check, which is there to try and get to the

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bottom of those unanswered questions and try and provide the audience

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with some clarity and some facts and figures. Actually, very often the

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answer will come, well there is this evidence and that evidence, but in

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truth we don't really know the outcome. Do you think there might be

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more good news about Brexit out there that could be reported? I

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think we should absolutely do that. We will try and make every effort as

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the negotiations go on to ask the question is that a good thing, is

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that a bad thing? Again it's part of our job to present every side of

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that. I would agree that we will be looking for that opportunity as much

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as highlighting any concerns or problems with it.

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Thank you very much. Finally Complaints can go through a

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more formal procedure ending up with a finding by the BBC Trust and

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that's what happened after this was broadcast in November 2015 following

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the terror attacks in Paris. Today I asked the Labour leader,

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Jeremy Corbyn, if he were the resident here at Number 10 whether

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or not he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the

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event of a Paris-style attack? I am not happy with the shoot to kill

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policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think often

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can be counterproductive, you have to have security that prevents

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people firing off weapons where you can. There are various degrees of

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doing things as we know but the idea you end up with a war on the streets

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is not a good thing. But Jeremy Corbyn had in fact been responding

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to a question there about whether he would be happy to order police or

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military to shoot to kill on Britain's streets and not

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specifically regarding a Paris-style attack in the UK. The BBC Trust this

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week found that the report inaccurately represented the Labour

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leader's views, breaching the BBC's impartiality and accuracy

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guidelines. But BBC News has rejected that, saying MrCorbyn's

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remarks were not taken out of context, that he fully understood

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the nature of the questions asked and were reported accurately and

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impartially. John Blair objected to what he saw as insufficient coverage

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of the finding on the BBC itself, writing:

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And Hugh had this response: Thank you for all your comments this

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week. You too can share your opinions on BBC news, current

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affairs and TV online or even appear on the programme. You can call us:

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Or e-mail. You can find us on Twitter.

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Do have a look at previous discussions on our website.

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That's all from us. We will be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News

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coverage again next week. Goodbye.

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Viewers' comments on BBC News coverage, with Samira Ahmed. This week, as the prime minister reveals more of the government's plans for leaving the European Union, is the BBC obsessed with the potential downsides of Brexit?


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