Bell: praise for 5 News
Veteran foreign correspondent Martin Bell has been persuaded by his former rivals at ITN to make a TV journalism comeback after five years.
Bell is reporting from Malawi with two special reports on the impending famine for the ITN-produced 5 News. Since leaving the BBC in 1997 to stand against former Tory MP Neil Hamilton in Tatton, Bell has criticised his former employer for "dumbing down" its foreign news coverage.
"I’ve never filed a single report for ITN in my life and I must say it was an absolute novelty," said Bell. "As it’s the first bit of TV news I’ve done for five years I did wonder if I could still do it, but that’s for others to judge."
A Unicef Special Ambassador, Bell described coverage of the "potentially catastrophic" situation in Malawi as "sporadic" so far.
"Unfortunately we often have to wait for a great catastrophe to occur before journalists and television in general train their eyes on it," said Bell.
But Bell welcomed the coverage of the issue on 5 News which has seen viewing figures rise to around 900,000 after adopting a more "highbrow" agenda and wooing back former presenter Kirsty Young from ITV.
"I have had a lot to say about foreign news reporting, but whereas a lot of news has dumbed down, 5 News is one of the programmes that has wised up."
Bell was approached by the programme’s editor, Gary Rogers, a former BBC colleague: "We had been looking for a way to cover Malawi and when we heard that Martin was going there, decided to give him a call," said Rogers.
"Martin is a fantastic television journalist and still a recognisable and trusted face and I think viewers will pay attention."