French broadcasters claim UK coverage of riots 'over the top'

International
broadcasters accused their French counterparts of carrying out
self-censorship by playing down the suburban riots with limited
coverage.

But Jean Claude Dassier, director general of French
24-hour news channel LCI, told delegates he felt the coverage by UK, US
and other international broadcasters had been “over the top”.

He said: “We found the place given to the story by channels was excessive.

The analysis was also over the top and the people interviewed were not chosen in the best possible way.”

Dassier
also said that he felt it was paramount to maintain a sense of
perspective with the story and not “give a disproportionate angle on
events”. He said: “We musn’t feed the fire, but cover stories in a
reasonable way. This unrest had no political or religious foundation.

We experienced camera crews being told by rioters ‘We’ll give you good pictures’ and then they set cars on fire.”

Other
broadcasters didn’t share Dassier’s point of view. ITV News’s editor
Deborah Turness asked him: “By keeping distance from the violence are
you complicit with the French government, and can you tell me how many
members of staff from non-French backgrounds work for LCI?”

Dassier
responded: “I don’t consider that by acting responsibly when faced with
these events that I am following a mandate from the French government.

It
would be remiss if I helped the extreme right wing of the French
political world to gain political ground by showing cars on fire. I do
not apologise for giving a balanced view of events.”

He said
there were 10 members of staff at the channel from non-French
backgrounds and admitted that this was “probably not enough”.

CNN
International’s managing director Chris Cramer said if broadcasters
didn’t cover aspects of a story, then someone else would: “We are not
gatekeepers anymore and we are missing the point if we think that we
are. If viewers think we are censoring stories, it is very bad news for
us.”

The amount of French coverage was also criticised by Sky
News executive editor John Ryley: “We would have been all over it like
a cheap suit. We would have ‘monstered’ the story, and sitting in my
grubby little office it didn’t look like that was happening in France.”

During
the debate on reporting Islam, Dutch reporter Saskia Dekkers, who has
been covering the French riots, said she had come across a distrust of
French media among young people living in French suburbs. “I was asked,
‘are you French TV? If you are we don’t want to talk to you.’ They
explained that they felt misrepresented by all of the French media,”
she said.

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