02/03/2018 Newswatch


02/03/2018

Did BBC News go over the top in reporting this week's snowy weather? Plus was it necessary to send so many BBC staff out there in the cold?


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LineFromTo

Now it's time for Newswatch,

with Samira Ahmed.

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This week, has BBC News gone over

the top in reporting this

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Hello and welcome to Newswatch

with me, Samira Ahmed.

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Too much airtime,

too much fear and not

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enough on other big news -

did the BBC goe snowblind over

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this week's weather?

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And were BBC on-air staff put

in danger on endless

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outside, live broadcasts?

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One story this week has dominated

television news output

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and the Newswatch inbox too,

so we will be focusing on this

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programme is what has

been widely dubbed as -

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well, let's hear the phrase

used by BBC presenters.

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Now, it's been billed

as The Beast from the East,

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a freezing weather front sweeping

in from Russia this week.

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Are you ready for

The Beast from the East?

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Weather blowing in from Russia

is set to make parts of the UK

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colder than the Arctic.

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The blast of bitterly cold weather

over the last couple of days

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has come from Siberia.

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The Beast from the East,

as it's been called.

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But should the BBC have given that

nickname further currency?

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No, thought a number

of viewers, including Mike.

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The Beast from the East -

why have the BBC adopted this

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trashy, tabloid headline

for the recent weather?

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Surely the BBC news is above such

a ridiculous description?

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More and more, we seem to be

lowering journalistic standards

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in order to entertain

and maintain viewer figures.

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And Ian tweeted along

similar lines...

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And that charge of hysteria was made

more widely, for instance,

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by a viewer called Linda...

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And Gill agreed...

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Another issue of concern

was the wisdom of sending reporters

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and camera crews out to face

the elements around the country.

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The weather today is brutal.

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There's freezing temperatures

across pretty much the whole

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of Scotland, and when the wind

blows, it feels much

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colder than that.

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It's pretty brutal here

at the moment, I have to say.

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We've had blizzard conditions,

subzero temperatures,

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winds of around 40mph.

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It's -8 at the moment.

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What this illustrates is how little

snow is needed to cause a problem.

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There's hardly any on the surface

here, but it has frozen up and got

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slippery and caused chaos

on this road this morning.

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Danny Savage, and before him,

Lorna Gordon and Ben Brown

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earning their crust there.

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But Danny was one of a number

of people to pose this question...

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Why do we continue to humiliate our

weather forecasters and reporters

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by subjecting them to outside

broadcasts in such terrible weather?

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Recently, during the infamous

Beast from the East,

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the reporters were standing outside

in all conditions, covered in snow.

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Sometimes in treacherous conditions,

standing next to the road

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or even in the road,

where there was traffic

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trying to pass.

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They quite easily could have been

knocked over by cars skidding.

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It makes no sense to me

why they have to be out

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in that sort of weather,

when it's quite easy,

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like myself here, as you can see,

you can see the snow behind me,

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but I'm still indoors,

reporting this to you.

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Others questioned whether the BBC

News's interest in weather had

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something to do with geography?

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Willie from Carlisle

at it like this...

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But the main complaint this week

was about the shear quantity

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coverage of the weather.

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Andrew was one of those who thought

the BBC went well over the top.

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It was Samuel Johnson who said,

when it two Englishmen meet,

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the first thing they do is talk

about the weather.

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But I think we do take it

to extremes of the amount

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of coverage we've had

in the last couple of days.

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Every ten minutes,

with a five-minute warning

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about the apocalyptic

snowfall coming up.

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One good thing about this is that it

has taken Brexit off

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of the main news for a time.

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Oh, no, I tell a lie -

as I look now I can see they're

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talking about Brexit on the TV.

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So you can't have

everything in one go.

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Yes, Brexit certainly featured

on BBC news this week, as did Syria.

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But Paul pointed out

that the extensive weather coverage

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meant less time given

to that unfolding crisis.

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You may have noticed it's been

snowing in the UK, there's been

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a lot about it the news.

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I've been prompted to contact

Newswatch because I watched the

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BBC 6pm news on Tuesday,

I think it was, and we went

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through the entire show without once

mentioning the huge,

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emerging humanitarian disaster

that is Eastern Ghouta in Syria.

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There was lots of footage

of children playing in the snow,

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of reporters standing by motorways

with abandoned vehicles and lorries

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trapped in snowdrifts.

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But while children are playing

and tobogganing in the UK,

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they are playing in bunkers

and underground in Syria.

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Plenty to talk about there

with the controller

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of BBC news channels, thank

you for coming on Newswatch.

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No-one is saying that

snow wasn't a big story,

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them in the grand scheme of things,

there's a strong concern it came

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at the cost of a lot of serious news

coverage that should have had

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more prominence on air?

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I think when you look

at this scale and severity

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of the disruption seen this week,

you can see why we gave the snow

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story the prominence we have.

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In fact, much of that

are still ongoing.

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The fact is we have had two

red weather warnings

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from the Met Office -

red means risk to life -

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two on the same day in different

parts of the country,

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speaks, I think, to

the scale of the weather

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disruption that was coming.

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Disruption to public services,

to transport services -

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we have had seen people being stuck

on motorways and trains overnight

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and that's in spite

of all the warnings given.

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So we approached the story saying,

we know it's going to disrupt

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peoples lives, we ought to warn

of that and report what happens.

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That's what we have done this week.

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In terms reporting what happens,

the viewers were saying that public

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interest would have been adequately

served with less sheer

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numbers of minutes.

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More than ten minutes

of the top of the 6pm,

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three days in row, Tuesday,

Wednesday and Thursday.

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One of the viewers there referring

to the fact that Syria did not get

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a mention on Tuesday,

he felt, properly?

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Another way of looking

at the figures is how large

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the viewing figures for the story

have been either on the television

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or digital platforms.

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We know on Thursday night,

almost 9 million people

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watched their regional

bulletin around England.

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We know the story has been widely

read on line with traffic

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up 20% on many days.

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Four of the top ten stories on any

given day being the snow story.

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We know the viewing figures

to the BBC News Channel had been

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consistently high all week.

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Therefore, audience interest

in the story is there.

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As for other stories, I could point

to a considerable coverage of Brexit

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throughout the week.

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With regards to Syria,

Jeremy Bowen spoke about Syria

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on Sunday's 10pm news

and hopes for a ceasefire.

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Eastern Ghouta was the lead

story on the Radio 4

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bulletins on Tuesday morning,

it continued to feature

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throughout our coverage

throughout the week,

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and Jeremy Bowen is in Damascus now.

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So I think we have managed

to balance the snow story

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with all the other major news events

that have been going on.

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Another issue that many viewers

raised was that BBC News only really

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got interested in giving

the sonow a lot of coverage

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when it hit the southeast?

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I don't think that's true.

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Actually, we were warning people

throughout the weekend

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this event was coming.

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I think it started in the southeast,

but we were also able to say,

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on Wednesday night, for example,

when there was particularly severe

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disruption in Scotland and northern

and eastern England,

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that's where the bulletin

coverage began, in those

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parts of the country.

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And it's interesting to note that

today, Glasgow has reported

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the snowfall they have had in that

part of the world was the worst

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ever at the airport.

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I think that speaks

to the scale of the disruption.

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So the fact that Glasgow was top

of the coverage on Wednesday

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evening was appropriate,

I think.

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Some viewers felt that,

even though there were amber and red

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warnings from the Met Office,

that most of the population wasn't

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in any danger at all, and perhaps

the BBC over hyped the fear?

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We have to report the severe weather

warnings when they come.

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And when you have two red

warnings in the same day,

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I think the last red warning we had

for snow was five years ago,

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here we had two on the same

day, we have agreement

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with the Met Office that we will

report those things.

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We report them from the point

of view of what the potential

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disruption will be and then

from what has actually happened.

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People who have either been

trapped in their cars

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overnight or on trains,

as we discussed earlier.

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I think what we've done

there is report both proportionally

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the potential danger

to people and the consequence

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of what's happened.

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The phrase The Beast from the East -

too tabloid, overdramatic?

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Well, we didn't coin the phrase

Beast from the East.

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You've used it, a lot.

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We've used it when it

seemed appropriate.

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It hasn't tended to be used

in our actual weather forecasts,

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from a meterological standpoint.

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It's helpful in one regard,

in that it tells people this

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is a significant weather

event that is coming.

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It also tells them where it's

coming from, from Siberia.

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And we were able to tell people

that this was not just

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going to be snow or ice,

it's going to be the wind

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and extreme cold.

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I think one of the features

of this week has been how

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cold it has been and,

on our new digital products,

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our website and app,

we are a able to give people

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a feels-like feature,

which tells people what the weather

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conditions are going to be.

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Was it really necessary

or a sensible use of licence-fee

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payers' money to send armies

of crews out to do all those lives,

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often in white-out conditions?

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I'm not sure it was armies.

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We worked very closely

with our colleagues around

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the nations of the UK

and the English regions to make sure

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those deployments are proportional.

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Actually, there's been

an awful lot to report on.

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We've sent people out where we think

there's story to cover.

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Actually, some of those people have

been in traffic jams themselves,

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they are perfectly well-equipped

and trained, they are

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with colleagues who can

make sure they are safe.

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We take their safety

extremely seriously,

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so I think some of the work

those people have done

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has been pretty hard,

pretty plucky and very impressive.

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On safety, a lot of viewers

complained in particular

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about Sian Lloyd being made to stand

what looked quite precariously close

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to speeding lorries,

and it might even have been possible

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she was standing in the road -

there were abandoned cars

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behind her, it was hard to tell.

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People are concerned that

perhaps staff are being put

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in danger unnecessarily?

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I'd like to reassure people

that is not the case.

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We take their safety

extremely seriously.

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As I say, from the point of view

of how well they are equipped,

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so they're suitably warm.

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Also they have colleagues

with them to make sure

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they are safe at all times.

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They are all highly trained

and we have very strict

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protocols around that,

so I hope I can reassure

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people on that one.

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Thank you so much.

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Thank you for all your

comments this week.

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If you want to share your opinions

on BBC News and current affairs

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or even appear on the programme,

you can contact us on...

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Do have a look at our

website for previous interviews,

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the address is...

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That's all from us, we'll be back

to hear your views on BBC news

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coverage again next week.

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Goodbye.

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Viewers' comments about BBC News coverage, presented by Samira Ahmed. She asks if BBC News went over the top in reporting the snowy weather and whether it was necessary to send so many BBC staff out there in the cold.


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