BBC time delay 'is a negation of journalism'

By Caitlin Pike

A veteran ITN foreign correspondent has condemned the BBC’s plans to
introduce a time delay in transmitting live coverage of some news
stories.

Julian Manyon, who last week won a Golden Nymph for his live
coverage of the Beslan school siege for ITV News, told Press Gazette
that the new editorial guidelines, which recommend the use of a time
delay with sensitive news stories, were “a negation of modern
television journalism”.

He added: “It’s extraordinarily ironic
that the BBC would choose to do this, using an event such as Beslan as
a justification for it – an event that was the subject of so much
gripping live coverage that must have actually brought home to people
the horror of what has been taking place in Chechyna for years.”

He
described live coverage as “one of modern society’s most essential
tools”, enabling people to grasp the enormity of a situation
immediately, and said it was part of what made journalism a force for
good.

“The idea of putting a seven-second loop on the thing and
then having a committee sit there and watch and decide which bits are
going to be acceptable or not, to me is a negation of modern television
journalism and I really do think that they ought to reflect on this.”

Manyon
said if it had been possible to broadcast live footage of Rwandan
atrocities earlier, the authorities and governments of the world might
not have “sat on their hands” when it came to a response.

“When
the stakes are as high as this in humanitarian terms, is it right that
the BBC should neutralise the pictures of what is taking place?” he
asked.

“Do we, in order to protect the sensitivities of our
viewers, have to have wars without fighting and massacres without
bloodshed? I don’t believe so.”

The BBC said that a time delay
would only be used in exceptional circumstances and it would be an
editorial decision taken by BBC News. The BBC’s guidelines were
published last month after they were updated for the first time since
the Hutton inquiry.

They will come into effect on 25 July.

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