BBC 'slow to call' terrorist attack in July

BBC head of news Helen Boaden has admitted the corporation was slow
to abandon the claim that a power surge was the reason for explosions
on the London tube on 7 July, rather than a terrorist attack.

Speaking
at a session on breaking news, Boaden said the strap placed across the
bottom of the screen on the morning of the bombings still bore the
words ‘power surge’ even when presenters were conveying details of the
explosion on the bus in Tavistock Square.

“We’ve now learned that the strap and headlines condition the sense of the story,” she said.

Boaden
told the conference recent research carried out by the BBC had revealed
the audience are more forgiving over the facts when watching a breaking
story rather than a package aired during a bulletin.

“The
audience are more sophisticated than we give them credit for – they are
far more understanding when stories are unfolding than when they are
watching bulletins. They expect a far higher level of accuracy during
bulletins,” she said.

Boaden also said : “We don’t wake up saying
‘let’s be second’. We wake up saying ‘let’s be winners, let’s be
first’. If we are unsure of the facts or sources are contradictory, we
pause longer than the competition – it’s in our DNA.”

■ In the
same session, Sky News’ executive editor John Ryley said he was
frustrated by the perception of 24-hour news as being “flimsy and
narrow”. He said: “There is this view that we skim the surface, but we
actually have the time to drill down into stories to find our what is
going on. Yet people still ask ‘Is 24-hour news broad enough, does it
go deep enough?'”

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