Snoddy acts as BBC viewers' watchdog in post-Hutton era

Looking out: Ray Snoddy provides the new face for a programme that answer viewers’ concerns over news

A programme aimed at making BBC news journalists and executives more accountable to viewers in the postHutton climate launches this week.

NewsWatch, to be broadcast on BBC News 24 on Fridays, and repeated on Saturday’s BBC Breakfast, will be presented by Ray Snoddy, the former media editor of The Times who now freelances for a range of publications, including The Independent .

Snoddy used to present Channel 4’s Hard News programme which focused on misbehaviour by newspapers. The new programme is seen as a move by the BBC to be more accountable following its savaging in the Hutton Report and in the run up to the renewal of its Charter.

Snoddy said: “It is a chance for people to have a go at things they don’t like on BBC News and current affairs. It will range from serious things like the Middle East to less serious things like presenters’ ties.”

He said he believed that in the past BBC News “had listened to complaints but not much changed”.

Interviewed on the first programme, BBC deputy director-general Mark Byford says there will now be a presumption the viewer is right when the BBC is dealing with a complaint.

Byford, according to Snoddy, has promised that news executives will co-operate with the programme by turning up to answer criticism and complaints.

Snoddy added: “Journalists tend to be a bit reticent when asked: ‘ How do you justify that?’ But it is not going to be a witch hunt. We are just going to give viewers with strong opinions the chance to put them to responsible journalists and editors.”

A pilot programme looked at complaints that the BBC’s coverage of the conflict in Gaza was biased.

The programme promises to bring viewers face to face with BBC executives to discuss issues raised on news and current affairs across the entire BBC network. Viewers will also go behind the scenes to find out how decisions aremade.

As well as the programme, the BBC is launching a new website to explain the thinking behind some of its editorial policies and to make it easier for people to contact programmes directly.

NewsWatch can be seen on News 24 at 8.45pm on Fridays, repeated on BBC Breakfast the following morning.

By Jon Slattery

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