17/03/2017 Newswatch


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Now it's time for Newswatch, with Samira Ahmed.


Hello, and welcome to Newswatch with me, Samira Ahmed.


BBC reports revealed the scale of the famine in


Is this more charity campaigning than news?


And can you have too much of a fun viral moment


First, how significant is it in news terms


when politicians listen to criticism and rethink controversial decisions?


On Wednesday the Prime Minister announced the scrapping of the plans


announced in the budget to raise national insurance payments for


Norman Smith described this U-turn to Sophie Raworth like this...


Sophie, let's just get this in perspective of grand government


howling, screeching, Italian Riviera, hairpin bend, smoke


bleeding from the tyres sort of U-turn.


In terms of the speed, just seven days ago Philip Hammond


announced this tax rise, and the scale of it, it is a complete


Not a tweak, not a nudge, not a review


Some of you thought there was too much relish


and shock over a simple change of mind, including


Politicians get all excited about policy U-turn


is because they love finding fault with each other.


Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland,


Monday when she said there should be another referendum on Scottish


A demand rebuffed by the Prime Minister on Thursday.


This is a highly contentious issue, as was


seen in the criticism made of the BBC over its coverage


It exercised several viewers again this week with


Andrew Harrison asking, why are the BBC spending so much


time discussing the SNP and their political agenda


This should not be driving the news of the 60 million other UK


I can only hope the BBC does not revert to type, given


its role in the 2014 Scottish referendum,


and become a propaganda machine for the Nationalist British


As that debate continues, the BBC's reporting will clearly be


under scrutiny again, including an Newswatch.


Now, our domestic political concerns have been put


into perspective this week by a series of reports running on BBC


television about the famine recently declared in South Sudan.


The first declared anywhere in the world in


The millions of people facing starvation in Somalia, Kenya


It's not that there is no food in South Sudan, it's just that


Because of the constant fighting, people can't


And if the fighting continues, more and


more people will be forced to abandon their homes and become


Many are already dying before they can


With 3 million people on the verge of starvation here, the


But what about those children who don't make it


Where there are no doctors or clinics, where food and water has


been looted by retreating Boko Haram fighters.


For those children, the end is inevitable.


Innocent victims of a man major tragedy.


Clive Myrie there, reporting from Nigeria.


Before him, Andrew Harding in Somalia.


And Catherine Byaruhanga in South Sudan.


Grace Dalton was one of those who welcomed the coverage, leaving


us this telephone message on Wednesday.


I really wanted to thank you so, so much.


I was really pleased yesterday that you were


covering quite substantially the famine situation in Africa.


My only criticism about the BBC's coverage


is that you didn't give out the DEC number, I thought you might give out


contact for people to be able to donate towards the effort being made


Later on Wednesday the BBC did broadcast an appeal from the


With full details of how money could be donated.


Nobody should be dying of starvation in 2017.


For a malnourished child in this situation, ?5 could provide a week's


?25 could provide a month's supply of life-saving peanut paste.


?60 could provide clean drinking water for two families for a month.


The Disasters Emergency Committee is an umbrella group of major charities


which has won many television campaigns following, for instance,


the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Typhoon Haiyan


in the Philippines in


Dawn, and as the sun breaks through the piercing chill of night


TV has a long history of bringing humanitarian crisis to the attention


of the wider public, most famously through


Michael Burke's report on


what he called the biblical famine in Ethiopic in 1994, which gave rise


But some people are uncomfortable about


the role and impartial and objective BBC can have here in kick-starting


The news channel there is to deliver news.


This is nothing more than an appeal for money.


This does not belong on the main news channel as the head


Returning to the Newswatch studio to discuss this is


the editor of the BBC News at Six and News at Ten, Paul Royal.


Can you explain first how the BBC came to declare


All of these countries we've been covering and


reporting from over the past 3-6 months.


We ran a couple of pieces from north-east Nigeria in December.


We've reported from South Sudan through January.


We've been covering them and the situation there has been


What happened about a week ago was a warning from the United


Nations, a very stark warning that 21 million people are at risk of


And on the basis of that, we felt that was


something, the gravity of the situation, the magnitude of the


story, that was something we needed to cover.


With those reports viewers commented they noticed reporters


Even if it's a worthy charitable cause,


questioning whether BBC News reporters were using the jargon of a


I would argue against that in the sense that what


our correspondents were doing is what they always do, which is report


with authority and context what is going on in a difficult and


And actually say in the case of Andrew


Harding, who reported famine in Somalia in 2011, he brought back


into his reporting this week to contrast


the differences between the


situation then and now, and to point out that


today the situation is


probably less grave than it was in 2011.


And the country and aid agencies and international community


had learned lessons and were making their appeals and their warnings


earlier to try and stop people from dying.


Looking at some of those news reports one wonders where the line


is, the limit is, on what reporters can say,


DEC appeal saying we urgently need you and want you to donate money.


Where is the boundary for the reporter?


I think the reporters, our correspondents,


These are difficult, dangerous, distressing


They describe and they report them as they always do with


all the context and background attached to that.


So I don't think our correspondence and reporters


have got emergency appeals in their minds,


in their thoughts, as they


BBC News reports can have a huge impact and a


campaign for fundraising appeal will have a huge impact on the BBC.


Perhaps there is a case to say why not give more attention of this


campaigning kind to other crises maybe closer to home?


What we've done this week is not campaigning


journalism, that is a


Campaigning journalism, which some newspapers


will do, and have a long and proud tradition


of, is trying to get a


We've been doing this week what BBC News always


does, which is report significantly important


stories from around the


In terms of why this, why not something else, I would argue we


cover a whole range of serious and important situations at home and


I suppose in this situation 21 million people are at


risk of starvation, starving to death.


The gravity and magnitude of the situation is such that that is


what warrants and justifies an appeal,


because it is so grave and


Perhaps the most widely seen BBC interview of the week was one


originally given to BBC world news about the South Korean President's


In case you've been hiding under a rock for the past


seven days, here is Professor Robert Kelly and the rest of his family.


And what will it mean for the wider region?


I think one of your children has just walked in.


Shifting sands in the region, do you think


Erm, I would be surprised if they do.


What is this going to mean for the region?


Soon an online sensation, the interrupted interview featured


in news bulletin headlines, there was a follow-up interview with


Professor Kelly, even live coverage of a news conference he gave, mainly


The point of the Internet is, if people are interested in this, they


can look for themselves... Enough is enough. Plenty of online traffic on


Thursday was BBC footage of Mount Etna erupting at a lava flow mixed


with steam causing a huge explosion. Rebecca Morelle was filming on the


volcano at the time and escaped with camerawoman Rachel Price, who kept


filming this footage as she ran down the mountain. The crew suffered only


minor injuries and many people commended their work and bravery,


but Patricia Rosewell had a concern. Thank you for all your comments this


week. If you see anything on BBC News and current affairs you


particularly like or dislike, please explain why by calling us.


You can find us on twitter. Do have a look at our website.


That's all from us, we'll be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News


coverage again next week. Goodbye. Good evening, the weekend is pretty


much upon us. I think we've probably seen better weekends in the middle


of March because it'll be quite a windy weekend. Some rain in the


forecast as well. Looks like most of it will fall on the western side of


the UK. Should be


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