12/05/2017 Newswatch


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12/05/2017

Is the Green Party under-represented in the BBC's election programmes? And why is there no head-to-head TV debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn?


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At ten o'clock in Bruce will be here with a full round-up of the news.

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First, here is news watch. Hello and welcome to Newswatch

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with me, Samira Ahmed. She won't take part

:00:24.:00:26.

in a televised leaders debate. Will the BBC do more to make

:00:27.:00:28.

a head-to-head happen? And are the Green party being given

:00:29.:00:31.

a fair share of airtime on the BBC's There has been a bit

:00:32.:00:35.

of a phoney war feel Before the parties began

:00:36.:00:42.

publishing their manifestos. Many questions had been fobbed

:00:43.:00:45.

off with this answer, given to Laura Kuenssberg

:00:46.:00:48.

by Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday. Well, you will have to wait

:00:49.:00:54.

for the manifesto for the details. Those manifestos will be

:00:55.:00:57.

officially unveiled next week, but on Wednesday night we got

:00:58.:01:00.

a sneak preview of what Somehow, an earlier

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version had ended up I can't claim I've read it

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all, but here it is. Stamped right through the middle

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of the document, about 20,000 words In other words, they hadn't quite

:01:14.:01:15.

anticipated me waving it But I can do, because we've

:01:16.:01:22.

received this leaked draft. Well, he could leave it

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around on the telly, Tim Grant was among several

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Newswatch viewers who thought not, asking, if it's got confidential

:01:31.:01:34.

written on it, is it right And David Gregory

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elaborated on that. One report explained how the word

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draft was on every page and that this report was not meant

:01:44.:01:45.

for public viewing. Why, then, do the BBC take

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the opportunity to make a moral stand here and not report

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on what was in the manifesto? This is, in effect, a stolen

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document, and therefore should have not been used in the way

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that it was. We didn't discover much

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about the Conservative Party's policy plans on Tuesday night's

:02:03.:02:04.

One Show, but we did get a few insights into the personalities

:02:05.:02:07.

and marriage of Mr and Mrs May. I get to decide when

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There's boy jobs and girl jobs, you see.

:02:16.:02:20.

Now, we're not leaving that as well, are we?

:02:21.:02:24.

I'm tempted to say in current circumstances I'm not sure how

:02:25.:02:28.

Alison Norcross found that a stomach churning interview,

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it made uncomfortable viewing on many fronts, not the least

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of which is the absolute obsequiousness of the presenters.

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And one Twitter user wondered, how can this propaganda be

:02:46.:02:48.

allowed when May runs from a face-to-face debate?

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The format in which senior politicians appear in the set piece

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election programmes only started in 2010, but has since become

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In 2015 David Cameron refused to follow the example of his

:03:00.:03:05.

predecessor as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and take part

:03:06.:03:07.

in a head-to-head discussion on the BBC with other party leaders.

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Five of whom appeared without him in a so-called challengers debate.

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Theresa May has followed his example and Jeremy Corbyn has said

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he won't take part in such a programme either, if she doesn't.

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So this time round we were told this week the BBC will be showing

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a debate featuring senior representatives from Labour,

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the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats,

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the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Ukip and the Green party.

:03:35.:03:39.

The press release also announced Question Time specials and election

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questions programmes featuring separately the leaders

:03:42.:03:43.

of six of those parties, but not the Green party,

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to the annoyance of many viewers, including Christopher Corey.

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I understand that the BBC in their forthcoming election

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specials have invited Ukip to take part and have excluded

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I think this is unfair and ludicrous, to be honest.

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I am not a Green party supporter, and I am certainly not

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a Ukip supporter, however, I do think that the Green party

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should qualify far above Ukip to have their voice heard

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Other viewers were annoyed about the absence of a televised

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debate between the two main candidates to lead

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Some comparing it to the long established tradition of American

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presidential hopefuls squaring up to each other, a debate in March

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between the two leading candidates to become Prime Minister

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of the Netherlands, and the TV discussions before the recent

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If those countries can do it, wondered Terry Pearson,

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why should our potential leaders avoid that sort of scrutiny?

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Isn't it about time the BBC took on the clearly prepared Conservative

:05:00.:05:02.

strategy of not letting May face searching political questions?

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The One Show "Who takes out the bins?"

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I still don't understand why we will not see May

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If the BBC had seriously threatened to empty chair her,

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Well, let's discuss some of those issues with the BBC's

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head of news gathering, Jonathan Monroe.

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Jonathan, let's start with whether the BBC should have

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done more to try to get Theresa May to take part in a leaders debate

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by threatening to go ahead with her seat empty.

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Well, we're really disappointed the Prime Minister's not

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doing the leaders debate, we would have liked to have done

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a leaders debate featuring the party leaders themselves.

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The day after the Easter weekend the Prime Minister announced

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Number one, there would be a general election.

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And number two, she would not take part in television debates.

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And our judgment was that wasn't a negotiating position,

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So threatening to empty chair would have led to an empty chair.

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Ultimately, the viewer doesn't learn anything from an empty chair.

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She has paid no price for refusing the leaders debate.

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In fact, there she is on The One Show sofa,

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and viewers have said, whatever you say, they feel

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that's wrong, and maybe she would have given in.

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But she hasn't paid a price for saying no.

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We don't know she's not paid a price.

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Some viewers may decide that they're going to change their vote

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as a result of the strategy of the leaders of the election.

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But it doesn't help anybody to say that because the Prime Minister

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is going to appear in one format she can't therefore appear

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in other programmes, whether it's Question Time

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or election questions or Andrew Neil interviews.

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Or The One Show or Jeremy Vine or any of the other programmes that

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actually had leader debates, and people thought we were going

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It's a shame that we're not getting them.

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Basically what happened in 2010 is that all the main party

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leaders at the time, by which I mean just three of them,

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we didn't include the seven in 2010, they all felt, for whatever reason,

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it was in their interest, it was the right moment to say yes

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That changed by 2015 with, as you say, David Cameron not

:07:06.:07:09.

A very complicated negotiation then followed about exposure of parties

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We didn't have Nick Clegg in the TV debate either.

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And it has changed again this time round with the Prime Minister

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Let's hope we can get them back again in future elections.

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The BBC is going to run these special Question Time format

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programmes with individual party leaders and studio audience.

:07:31.:07:32.

At the start of this week the BBC said the Greens

:07:33.:07:34.

A lot of viewers complained to Newswatch.

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And they complained to us, too, and I've heard the comments your

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Let me explain the formula we use, not in too much detail.

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We are obliged by our regulations to take into account the electoral

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support over two election cycles, that means two general elections,

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in other words back to 2010, and all the elections that happened

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Lots of local elections in that time, obviously,

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If you take all those figures, the Ukip support over that period

:08:03.:08:06.

is significantly greater than the Greens.

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The Greens have been stable but very low.

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We saw, as you know, a week or so ago, they didn't do

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But over the seven-year period we are obliged to count,

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But when you apply that format to the schedule,

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the programmes we are actually going to make, we do think

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in retrospect, actually, that the gap between what Ukip

:08:31.:08:32.

is getting and what the Greens are getting is too great,

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so we're going to make a change and we've invited the Green party

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in the last 24 hours to take part in an extra programme

:08:39.:08:41.

in the elections questions format in the last weekend

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They've accepted that and we're really pleased to have

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that extra programme going into the BBC One schedule.

:08:48.:08:50.

So you've either caved in to pressure or you got it wrong.

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We're not going to cave in to pressure from political parties.

:08:54.:08:57.

We looked at the schedule in retrospect, what we'd lined up,

:08:58.:08:59.

and the differences between the parties.

:09:00.:09:02.

There were two differences, effectively, that the Greens

:09:03.:09:04.

One was the Question Time elections questions programmes,

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The other was the series of Andrew Neil interviews,

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which are going out the week after next on BBC One.

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So what we've done is we said to the Green party, we think

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the gap's too great at the moment, but you can't have equivalents

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to the other parties because of that electoral support issue.

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So we've given them, we hope, a good compromise

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and an offer I'm really pleased to say they've accepted.

:09:28.:09:30.

Away from the election, shock were created this week

:09:31.:09:35.

by President Trump's sacking of the FBI director James Comey.

:09:36.:09:38.

The White House has said he was fired because he'd

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mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's

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Here's Jon Sopel on Wednesday night's News at Ten.

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But if it really is all about the way the FBI conducted

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the Hillary Clinton investigation, why sack him now?

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Why not do it when Donald Trump first came to office?

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And how do you reconcile it with the praise that was

:10:00.:10:02.

Roger Witt from Poole felt there was a lack

:10:03.:10:07.

of balance in the reporting of Mr Comey's sacking.

:10:08.:10:10.

I'm struggling to understand why the BBC should imply that the reason

:10:11.:10:14.

behind it is the fact that the bureau were closing

:10:15.:10:17.

Yes, it's what the Democrats say, but without any evidence.

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In months of investigation, Comey has produced no evidence either,

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so I'm curious as to what facts the BBC is privy to.

:10:27.:10:30.

Or is the corporation merely reporting selective rumour?

:10:31.:10:33.

Finally, Alexander Blackman, known as Marine A, was freed two

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weeks ago after serving three years in prison for killing a wounded

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An incident recorded on a helmet camera.

:10:40.:10:45.

On Tuesday, Clinton Rogers met the former Royal Marine

:10:46.:10:47.

To be fair, you can put quite a few different spins on what's said.

:10:48.:10:54.

And unless you were actually there, you don't know the full story.

:10:55.:10:58.

Obviously, I told my version of events when I was at trial.

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and given especially what's

:11:05.:11:05.

happened to us in our life, if you could go back,

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One viewer was watching that and the her response for us on camera.

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I have absolutely no sympathy with the allegiances

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of his Taliban victim, but allowing the man who breached

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the Geneva Convention and killed and injured prisoner of war

:11:26.:11:28.

to justify himself in this way is disgusting.

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He was provided with a platform and allowed to minimise his actions

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and suggest there was justification not known to the general public.

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Thanks for all your comments this week.

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

:11:48.:11:50.

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

:11:51.:11:53.

Do have a look at our website for previous discussions.

:11:54.:11:58.

We'll be back to hear your thoughts about BBC news

:11:59.:12:09.