Sunday, December 31, 2006

The BBC comment of their coverage of Saddam's execution

The BBC have made public, the reasoning behind their recent broadcasts concerning the execution of Saddam Hussein.

This post by Kevin Backhurst who is the controller for BBC News 24, explains what the BBC decided to show and why.

The tightrope for any state broadcaster is very narrow to tread. The Corporation's mandate is to record and report events from around the world, but this must be done appropriately. Any BBC Journalist in NCA must follow editorial policy. It outlines how news events should be reported. In most cases the rules are easy to follow but in some cases, the lines become blurry. So what is appropriate or inappropriate?

This is a very complex issue with pro's and cons (see my last post regarding media coverage), censoring any news item for whatever reason can either damage accuracy or even misrepresent events or individuals.

Previously I pointed out that when governments or authorities censor news, we may be forgiven for being a little skeptical as to why but when the censoring is applied by the broadcaster and not faceless men in grey suits, it becomes a whole different issue.

What if the news wasn't 'sanitised' or cut? What if it was shown, warts and all? We may connect more powerfully with what's happening. For example, over 75% of Americans support capital punishment, but I wonder if the figure would quite as high if they were televised? Once we see events in full or once we see the uncut aftermath. It can be particularly powerful.

Now were back to that fine line. If we did show the real carnage of war or suicide bombings, we would upset many people. How would bereaved relatives feel? How would we feel?

I think a case could be made for a more 'hardcore' news but I'm not sure how it should be made or by whom. Millions of 'non-newsy' viewers will have tuned in to see the recent footage from Iraq, but the modus-operandi for news organisations should never be sensationalism or macabre-ism, even if these would pull in the most viewers.


Firstly, may I congratulate the BBC on providing tasteful, decent yet comprehensive coverage of Saddam's execution.

These are incredibly delicate days at the moment. The way in which the worldwide media cover this issue could set the public mood in the region for the coming days and months.

The BBC have reported accurately and appropriately and as such, the editorial decisions taken have upheld the corporations reputation for authoritative reporting.

I posted on this blog earlier. I commented then, that the single stories in themselves, point to much wider issues in general. It's this 'bigger picture' which must be considered by the news editors as I personally think that the real questions and issues have yet to be asked and examined.

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