16/03/2018 Newswatch


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16/03/2018

Did BBC News follow up this week's allegations of child abuse in Telford quickly enough, and in enough depth?


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All in positive territory tonight.

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Now it's time for Newswatch,

with Samira Ahmed.

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This week, BBC coverage

of child abuse in Telford

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is under the spotlight.

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Hello, and welcome to Newswatch

with me, Samira Ahmed.

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Was the BBC too slow to report

claims that up to 1,000 children

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in Telford may have been victims

of abuse by grooming gangs

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of mainly Pakistani heritage?

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And, as calls are made

for the Kremlin-backed TV station

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Russia Today to be taken off the air

in Britain, should Question Time

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have chosen one of its

presenters as a guest?

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First, the nerve agent attack

on Sergei Skripal and his daughter

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Yulia continued to dominate the news

agenda this week, raising many

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questions for BBC News.

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One was the extent to

which Theresa May's unequivocal

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statement that Russia was culpable

for the attack should be taken

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on trust or challenged.

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Some members of the audience felt

the BBC had erred too much

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in the former direction,

with Derek Culson writing...

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And George Skinner agreed.

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The Prime Minister announced

on Wednesday a number of measures

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to be taken against Russia,

but not one that had been widely

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to be taken against Russia -

but not one that had been widely

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mooted, taking the television

station Russia Today

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off the air in the UK.

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The broadcaster is widely regarded

as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin,

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which made the choice of one

of the panellists on BBC

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One's Question Time

a surprise to some people.

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A broadcaster with the

Russian-funded TV channel RT,

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and presenter of a weekly current

affairs programme on that

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channel, Afshin Rattansi.

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That guest booking was already

causing concern before the programme

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went out on Thursday,

with Matthew Holbert tweeting...

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And Dan watched the

programme and wondered...

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It's not the first time journalists

from Russia Today have

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appeared on BBC News,

and we asked the BBC whether it was

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appropriate for them to do so.

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They told us...

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The Russian theme continued that

evening, as Newsnight on BBC Two ran

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an item which irked some viewers,

not so much for its content

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as for the studio background.

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Did Jeremy Corbyn misread the mood

of his party in the Commons

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yesterday when he refused to point

the finger at Russia?

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Last night, a group of Labour

backbenchers said it unequivocally.

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They accept the Russian state's

culpability for the spy poisoning.

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Some people felt the photograph

of Jeremy Corbyn in a Russian-style

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hat surrounded by a red picture

of the Kremlin portrayed

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the Labour leader as

a collaborator with Moscow.

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Susan was one of them,

and recorded this video for us.

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I felt compelled to contact

you regarding the Newsnight

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programme last night.

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And the portrayal of

Jeremy Corbyn in some

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kind of a Russian hat

next

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to a portrayal of the Kremlin.

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I feel that this is a very biased

depiction of the man,

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and those more gullible in society

will absolutely associate Jeremy

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Corbyn with Russia and Russians.

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I'm only interested in justice

and honesty, and I don't

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see any of that here.

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Very disappointed.

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Now, last weekend, the Sunday Mirror

said it had uncovered written

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Britain's worst ever

child grooming scandal,

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with claims that up to 1,000 girls

had been abused since the 1980s.

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Over the next two days,

other newspapers followed

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that up extensively.

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But there was only limited

mentions on BBC News.

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Scores of people wondered why -

with one of them, David,

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leaving us this phone message

on Tuesday morning.

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Hi, I woke up this morning

to the horrific stories

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about the child abuse in Telford,

so I thought I'd go

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on to the BBC app,

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which I use regularly.

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And lo and behold, there

was nothing about it.

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You've got five stories

in the website.

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There's one about pork pies

and one about the danger

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of Chinese takeaways.

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Are you going to cover this scandal?

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The BBC was accused in the press

of ignoring the story,

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and Adam Paulson agreed, writing...

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Andrew e-mailed...

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Well, on Tuesday, the Victoria

Derbyshire Show interviewed a victim

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of child exploitation in Telford.

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But it wasn't until Wednesday that

BBC One bulletins ran

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a report on the subject,

from Sima Kotecher.

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Night-time in Telford.

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Recent reports say up to 1,000

girls could have been

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sexually abused in the town

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over the last four decades.

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The police here say

at the moment they are dealing

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with less than 50 cases.

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For many, the BBC's reaction

was to little, too late.

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Trevor Bell thought...

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And Robert tweeted this question...

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Well, let's put that

to James Stevenson,

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the BBC's News Editor,

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who joins me now.

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Can we start with...

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The story broke

in the Sunday Mirror.

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When did the BBC national news think

it was worth reporting?

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So, immediately we could see

that it was a good and strong piece

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of journalism by the Sunday Mirror.

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And it was widely covered

in our paper review on the Sunday.

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And we saw it was a story

that we needed to follow up,

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and we began to do that.

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As early as Monday morning,

the Victoria Derbyshire Programme

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was leading its output

on this story.

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And later that day, The World at One

interviewed the leader

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of Telford Council to challenge him

about

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what was going on.

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Which is radio.

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We quickly saw it was a story that

needed to be covered,

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and that it needed our original

reporting effort to follow up,

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and that's what we did.

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We heard from a viewer who said

he used the news app.

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I was wondering, when did

the story appear on the front

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page of the website?

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There was a story on

the website on Monday.

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That was on the England index.

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There were various developments

in the story as the week has gone

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on, I'm sure you've seen

and the viewers have seen how

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the story has developed.

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So, the initial suggestion was that

possibly 1,000 victims.

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That was based not on hard

information, but on an extrapolation

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based on work with an academic.

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So, we pursued it.

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And we waited the story.

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We look at it in depth.

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It's probably worth saying,

to address your point directly,

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that we're in the middle of this

huge spy drama and scandal,

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the poisoning scandal in Salisbury,

and that's consumed a huge amount

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of our airtime, as has

the death of Ken Dodd,

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and then later in the week Stephen

Hawking.

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Even in a busy news period,

this has been an exceptionally busy

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news week, and we've tried to cover

the Telford story in the mix amongst

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all of the other things

that we've been doing.

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Audiences would say,

a really busy news week, this

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is a really important new story.

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That's certainly true.

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And I'd like to sort of challenge

an idea that I think probably

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viewers might be left

with by the sequence

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they've just seen.

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This is a scandal that's been

unfolding in Telford over many

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years, and we have been covering it

in great depth and with great

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prominence during that time.

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So, the Operation Chalice

brought to life the scale

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of abusing in Telford.

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There was then the criminal

prosecution, which saw seven men

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being sent to prison

a few years ago.

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So, we have consistently been

reporting this story as it's gone

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along, and we've done

so again this week.

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The TV bulletins are where millions

of people go expecting to be told

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told what are the big,

important stories, and it wasn't

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until Wednesday, three days later,

that there was a report

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about Telford on the

national bulletins.

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Why?

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So, it was covered in brief

on the News at Ten on Tuesday night.

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A 15-second read...

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As I've explained, we've got a very

busy news period and there's

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a limited number of

stories we can cover.

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The reason it became a network TV

bulletin story on Wednesday was

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because of partly our journalism.

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So, we interviewed the police

in Telford, we interviewed

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a social worker in Telford,

it was raised at prime

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a social worker in Telford,

it was raised at Prime Minister's

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Minister's Questions,

and the Prime Minister

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reacted to it.

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Even, as I say, in this busy

period, that obviously

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deserved the attention

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it got in the main TV

bulletins that day.

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You will know what BBC viewers

are saying, and we've had hundreds

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of complaints into the BBC,

it's that it looked like the BBC

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felt awkward giving

this story prominence

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because it was about white victims

and Pakistani-heritage abuses.

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I know that's a view

that some people hold,

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I really don't think it's the case.

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We've done a great deal of coverage

of this area of abuse and this

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terrible story in Telford,

but also elsewhere in the country.

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The BBC has just won

a Royal Television Society Wward

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for the excellent documentary,

incredible documentary,

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about abuse in the north-east

of England based around Newcastle.

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That was the second story in the TV

news three weeks ago.

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So, we've done a great deal

of work on Rotherham,

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on a lot of this stuff initially,

when this terrible situation came

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more fully to light.

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So, we've certainly committed

to covering what is a harrowing

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and terrible story, and we've done

it consistently over time.

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You will know, as Newswatch

has debated it before,

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but coverage of the previous

grooming scandals with this racial

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element, viewers every time

feel the BBC runs shy

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of reporting stories prominently.

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Do you think the BBC needs

to have a rethink about how it runs

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and reports on these stories?

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No, I think we are doing the right

thing and I think we are very

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determined to get to these terrible

and dark and difficult

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stories, not just this one,

but across the whole range.

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What I do think is true

to say is that before

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the full nature and scale

of what was going on in Bodrum

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and Rochdale and Oxford

and other places came out,

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there was not as great

an understanding of how, you know,

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profound a problem

and how deep this ran.

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So, if you go back a decade,

I think you can definitely say this

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story or this issue didn't get

the attention it probably

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deserved at that point,

that is something everyone

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has had to reflect on.

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James Stevenson, thank you.

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Thanks for your comments this week.

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If you want to share your opinions

on BBC News, current affairs,

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or even appear on the programme,

you can call us.

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Or you can e-mail Newswatch.

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You can find us on Twitter,

@NewswatchBBC.

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And do have a look at our website.

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That's all from us.

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We'll be back to hear your

thoughts about BBC News

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coverage again next week.

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Viewers' comments about BBC News coverage, presented by Samira Ahmed. Did the BBC follow up this week's allegations of child abuse in Telford quickly enough, and in enough depth?