17/03/2017 Newswatch


17/03/2017

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

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

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BBC reports revealed the scale of the famine in

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Is this more charity campaigning than news?

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And can you have too much of a fun viral moment

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First, how significant is it in news terms

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when politicians listen to criticism and rethink controversial decisions?

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On Wednesday the Prime Minister announced the scrapping of the plans

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announced in the budget to raise national insurance payments for

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

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

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howling, screeching, Italian Riviera, hairpin bend, smoke

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bleeding from the tyres sort of U-turn.

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

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

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Not a tweak, not a nudge, not a review

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Some of you thought there was too much relish

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and shock over a simple change of mind, including

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Politicians get all excited about policy U-turn

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is because they love finding fault with each other.

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Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland,

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Monday when she said there should be another referendum on Scottish

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A demand rebuffed by the Prime Minister on Thursday.

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This is a highly contentious issue, as was

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seen in the criticism made of the BBC over its coverage

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It exercised several viewers again this week with

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Andrew Harrison asking, why are the BBC spending so much

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time discussing the SNP and their political agenda

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

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

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its role in the 2014 Scottish referendum,

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and become a propaganda machine for the Nationalist British

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

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under scrutiny again, including an Newswatch.

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Now, our domestic political concerns have been put

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

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television about the famine recently declared in South Sudan.

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The first declared anywhere in the world in

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The millions of people facing starvation in Somalia, Kenya

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

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Because of the constant fighting, people can't

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And if the fighting continues, more and

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more people will be forced to abandon their homes and become

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Many are already dying before they can

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

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But what about those children who don't make it

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

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been looted by retreating Boko Haram fighters.

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For those children, the end is inevitable.

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Innocent victims of a man major tragedy.

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Clive Myrie there, reporting from Nigeria.

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Before him, Andrew Harding in Somalia.

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And Catherine Byaruhanga in South Sudan.

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

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us this telephone message on Wednesday.

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I really wanted to thank you so, so much.

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I was really pleased yesterday that you were

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covering quite substantially the famine situation in Africa.

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My only criticism about the BBC's coverage

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

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

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Later on Wednesday the BBC did broadcast an appeal from the

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With full details of how money could be donated.

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Nobody should be dying of starvation in 2017.

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

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

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

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The Disasters Emergency Committee is an umbrella group of major charities

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which has won many television campaigns following, for instance,

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the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Typhoon Haiyan

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in the Philippines in

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

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

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of the wider public, most famously through

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Michael Burke's report on

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

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But some people are uncomfortable about

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

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The news channel there is to deliver news.

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This is nothing more than an appeal for money.

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

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Returning to the Newswatch studio to discuss this is

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

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Can you explain first how the BBC came to declare

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All of these countries we've been covering and

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reporting from over the past 3-6 months.

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

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We've reported from South Sudan through January.

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

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

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

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And on the basis of that, we felt that was

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

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story, that was something we needed to cover.

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With those reports viewers commented they noticed reporters

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Even if it's a worthy charitable cause,

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questioning whether BBC News reporters were using the jargon of a

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I would argue against that in the sense that what

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

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

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And actually say in the case of Andrew

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

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into his reporting this week to contrast

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the differences between the

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situation then and now, and to point out that

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today the situation is

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probably less grave than it was in 2011.

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And the country and aid agencies and international community

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had learned lessons and were making their appeals and their warnings

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earlier to try and stop people from dying.

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

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

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

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Where is the boundary for the reporter?

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I think the reporters, our correspondents,

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These are difficult, dangerous, distressing

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They describe and they report them as they always do with

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all the context and background attached to that.

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So I don't think our correspondence and reporters

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have got emergency appeals in their minds,

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in their thoughts, as they

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BBC News reports can have a huge impact and a

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

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

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campaigning kind to other crises maybe closer to home?

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What we've done this week is not campaigning

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journalism, that is a

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Campaigning journalism, which some newspapers

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will do, and have a long and proud tradition

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of, is trying to get a

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We've been doing this week what BBC News always

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does, which is report significantly important

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stories from around the

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

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

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I suppose in this situation 21 million people are at

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risk of starvation, starving to death.

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

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what warrants and justifies an appeal,

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because it is so grave and

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

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

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

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

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And what will it mean for the wider region?

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I think one of your children has just walked in.

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Shifting sands in the region, do you think

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Erm, I would be surprised if they do.

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What is this going to mean for the region?

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Soon an online sensation, the interrupted interview featured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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minor injuries and many people commended their work and bravery,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the UK. Should be

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