17/02/2017 Newswatch


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At ten o'clock we have a full round-up of the day's news, but


Hello and welcome to Newswatch with me, Samira Ahmed.


Coming up: As more and more people use social media


as their primary source of news, how well is BBC journalism


And were this week's reports about pensioners being better off


than those of working age misleading and divisive?


First, the ongoing tension between Donald Trump and the media


broke out into open hostilities again this week at a news


The BBC's Jon Sopel had this encounter with the president.


On the travel ban would you accept that that was a good example


Spiky exchanges of that kind seem likely to continue and we will no


doubt be examining the BBC's relationship with the White House


again soon, but for now let's leave it with a couple of comments posted


And Penny Paisley agreed it was a victory on points


The phenomenon of items on news bulletins being used to trail


forthcoming BBC current affairs programmes has been noted


Does this practice simply make the most of the BBC's


journalism across its output, or are these just plugs


Tony Francis thought two examples also on the news at six


at the start of this week fell into the latter category.


On Monday the first headline was the fact that the prisons


are in crisis and then the newsreader went on to say


there was a Panorama programme later in the evening showing


The second item on the BBC News at 6 o'clock was the fact that


a supermarket has been keeping special offers open for months


There was to be another BBC programme at 7:30pm


Seems to me that the BBC is not reporting news at all,


it is actually making its news, or trying to and at the same


time simply a matter of promoting your own programmes.


This is not what the news seems to me to be about.


Monday saw a number of complaints about a story which featured


across several bulletins and services, including


the News At One, introduced here by Sophie Raworth.


Pensioners are on average better off than those of working age


for the first time according to new research by the think tank


It says a new wave of pensioners are more likely than previous


generations to own their own home, have generous private pensions


Not mentioned in the introduction, though it was in the report that


followed, was that the calculation made by the Resolution Foundation


was based on household income after housing costs such


The BBC's own reality check on the news website said this


important factor had been mentioned little in the coverage.


It found that before housing costs are taken into account,


working age households still have higher incomes.


A number of older viewers felt that both the topline claim of the story,


that pensioners are better off than workers, and the way


that the statistics were reported, was unbalanced.


Wynne Merrill has put it with some sarcasm in his e-mail.


Now, on Thursday the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told the BBC


that fake news had damaged public debate, following criticism


that his site had not done enough to prevent made up or distorted


stories from appearing on its news feed.


The BBC has an interest in Facebook's reputation


as it is increasingly using it as a platform for


It's part of a strategy of embracing new, digital


technologies and social media, a revolution in how the BBC


Once upon a time, BBC News had only two means of broadcasting,


But now it is faced with a vast increasing number of ways


There is Twitter, where the BBC's breaking news account has almost


30 million followers, Instagram where more than 3 million


people follow BBC News, and of course Facebook,


where the corporation has the largest page of any news


In addition, it has started streaming some of it


output via Facebook live, as well as other live streaming


But has all this activity left some traditional licence fee paying


Penelope Noel thinks so, e-mailing us to say:


on digital media discriminates against the very many people


who are unable to afford or use digital devices.


Stories like the investigation earlier this month into wildlife


traffickers selling baby chimpanzees are now rolled out in carefully


targeted ways to different digital destinations,


attracting significant traffic on a variety of platforms.


The benefit of this strategy for BBC News is obvious


in capturing hard to reach, younger audiences where they are


already spending their time online, but there are dangers as well.


Facebook, for instance, has faced mounting criticism


for publishing fake news, so how does the BBC avoid being seen


as just another potentially unreliable news source?


And does its presence on the site risk giving away its content


without bringing people back to spend time on the


Let's explore those questions with the social media


editor for the BBC News, Mark Frenkel.


How important are social media platforms like


One of the things we have to realise about Facebook is it controls


and manages a huge proportion of the social web.


Facebook owns Instagram, whatsApp, Facebook Messenger,


there are 1.9 billion active users on Facebook.


For the BBC not to be producing content and distributing it


It would be a loss for our audiences that inhabit those spaces


and want to explore more of our content and see and engage


and enrich themselves with the information


They don't pay a licence fee, certainly Facebook doesn't.


What is the deal that the BBC has done with them for providing them


Well, Facebook is an open platform and there is nothing to stop any


publisher from producing content and distributing it


We have an arrangement with Facebook in that we produce content for live


Outside of that we are publishing regular content all the time


onto Facebook, links to articles on the BBC News website, videos


that we are producing across BBC News, and we will continue


As we know, Facebook has this problem with fake news.


One wonders if there is not just a danger that the BBC is just


another provider on there and a lot of the audience do not notice


They are just looking for the story and the BBC doesn't really get


Well, I think this is all about our values


We are not compromising anything in terms of BBC values,


objectivity and impartiality by producing content


Clearly, the content that we are producing and publishing


into that space is alongside lots of other content.


We cannot vouch for the authenticity, the voracity,


of other people's content, but what we can do is search


for our own and the more content that we produce into that space that


people see, the more they will learn to understand and trust and value


the BBC and see it relevant to their lives and the things that


What we are learning all the time here is how to produce content


in a valuable way for an audience on social media.


And it isn't just a question of taking a television


package and sticking it into a Facebook page.


You have to think about how your audience will come to it,


see it, engage with it, look to share it and so forth,


so you are having to retailor, repurpose, reposition,


think about the visuals, the impact, the text that you are putting


at the top of the piece and so forth.


But also we get a lot of complaints at Newswatch that BBC News has


Is there a danger of trying to give social media what it wants,


which might be a preoccupation with stories that really are not


very serious and that is affecting the news content that is produced


I think all the time the preoccupation that I have


and the colleagues who work with me in social media at the BBC have,


is giving our audiences things that are editorially valuable


and interesting, but at the same time will be the kind of things


we know that will interest them from a social media perspective.


It is not about dumbing down or abandoning serious news values,


it is about saying, we have got a really important story


to tell you about Syria, we have got an important story


about the American election, or whatever the story happens to be


at any moment in time, and thinking how can we make that


interesting for someone who might be coming to that story for the first


time on a social media feed or platform?


It can seem sometimes as though social media is not operating under


the same editorial guidelines as the rest of the BBC.


How far are their guidelines about how you write for social media


similar to the traditional BBC News editorials?


We have a lot of guidelines and we have a lot of editorial


thought that has gone into them and we have very rigorous


To my mind social media is another form of broadcasting.


It is not a marketing exercise, it is not an additional process


that we join up onto the end of a television programme,


We really want to reach and engage those audiences,


we want to encourage them to explore more of the content


that we are producing, but we need to take it seriously.


Just as a television programme, if you were writing the script


for the six o'clock News or the ten o'clock news, you would write


the first draft, somebody else would look over it,


there would be a process by which that script will then get


Exactly the same processes take place with our social media writing.


Thank you for all your comments this week.


If you want to share your opinions on BBC News and current affairs,


or even appear in the programme, you can call us.


That is all from us, we will be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News


Coming up: A detailed forecast for the weatherhead, followed by


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