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Making the headlines

Tim Levell | 14:53 UK time, Monday, 15 January 2007

You may be surprised to read this, but the Mail on Sunday carried a shock-horror story about the BBC at the weekend based on an interview I gave - and I can refreshingly report that my words weren't twisted, my quotes weren't taken out of context, and, apart from the slightly over-dramatic writing, the story was basically correct.

Newsround logo"BBC bans Doherty from children's TV" was the newspaper's revelation, after I mentioned on the BBC's Newswatch programme (which you can watch here) that Newsround didn't think Pete Doherty was a suitable role model for children, and that we have an "informal agreement" not to cover stories about him.

It's not a blanket ban forever (we might even report on him and Kate getting married, if it's ever confirmed). But at the moment, yes, you won't catch Pete on Newsround, because he is known mostly for his drug-taking and crime - and, as I also said on Newswatch, his music is not exactly something that many nine-year-olds are listening to or interested in.

Some of you may think this is "censorship". Others may feel that he isn't a suitable role model, and I'd be very interested in your views.

But this also got me thinking about the BBC's slightly unusual relationship with some of the press - and wondering whether I should worry that my contribution has led to this story.

I previously worked on a project called iCan, now Action Network, which is all about helping people to take part in local democracy and take action on issues they care about. Before launch, we were concerned that the site could be interpreted as the BBC encouraging people to attack the government (in other words, undermining our commitment to political impartiality). I spent many hours with our editorial policy teams devising ways of making the BBC's impartiality clear - all in an attempt to avoid a much-feared tabloid expose.

I was then rather surprised when, after one of our pre-launch briefings, a senior BBC News manager told me that actually the best - not worst - thing that could happen to the site would be "revelations in the Daily Mail". It would show that the site was rattling cages (what it was designed to do) - and it would get it publicity.

In the end, iCan was never featured in any tabloid newspaper, probably to its cost. This taught me that headlines in the newspapers aren’t always a bad thing - particularly when they’ve got the story spot-on.


  • 1.
  • At 03:54 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Jodi wrote:

I think this is a good decision by the BBC. Pete Doherty is no kind of role model for the target age group of Newsround - in fact, he's no kind of role model at all, I'd say. And actually, what does he ever do that could be classed as news? As far as I can tell - and I read celebrity magazines - all he ever does is get drunk and get high. Which, frankly, isn't big or clever.

So, good decision!

  • 2.
  • At 04:32 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Graeme wrote:

Kids are much brighter and more conscious of the world than I think most people seem to imagine. I'm sure a large proportion of 9-year-olds are aware, to some extent at least, of who Pete Doherty is and what he does, whether or not he's shown on Newsround. Children will only grow up to have a balanced and reasoned view of the world if they are allowed to see and respond to both the good and the bad aspects of it. Having said all this, I suspect, as the post says, that most of the target audience have little interest in Pete Doherty and that alone is reason not to run stories about him.

  • 3.
  • At 04:33 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • steve wrote:

I was actually surprised when I caught an episode of Newsround for the first time in years a few weeks back to find them covering the Ipswich prostitute serial killer story. I tried to remember being told about similar news stories when I watched Newsround every day as a kid but couldn't, though there may be many equivalents. I have not kept up with Newsround obviously.

It may not even seem unusual to feature this sort of story on a kids-orientated news show but for some reason it struck me as odd, perhaps 'un-necessary', but hard to reason why. I suspect it would mostly have just flown over my own head were I an 8 year old watching it.

In any case it puts the Doherty issue in an altered perspective as it's so trivial in comparison. But I do not expect him to matter much at all to the majority of people aged 14 and under anyway (unlike other chart-topping and more 'obvious' pop stars).

  • 4.
  • At 04:48 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I don't know much about this Pete Doherty but from what you say, I gather that he is banned because of his life style which includes his "drug-taking and crime." I'm curious as to whether or not this is a new policy or has it been put into effect previously but not been discussed openly? It seems to me that many popular musicians have had a life style which included the taking of illegal drugs going back to the mid 1960s. They not only took them, in some of their music they extolled it along with dangerous promiscuous pre-marital and extra-marital sex and sex practices. These were hardly good role models for a productive and fulfilling life for their young audiences. So why now? Why has this suddenly become a crusade? What distinguishes this performer from say musicians who perform Gangster Rap?

  • 5.
  • At 04:58 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • andrew wrote:

I think you have got this absolutely right. Pete Doherty's immature antics are, as previously commented, a role model to no-one and make tiresome news. As you correctly point out his music is of no interest to children, as is his relationship to Kate Moss. I'm sure there is better news to present!

  • 6.
  • At 04:59 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

Peter Doherty is surely just as much an anti-role model; a walking argument against taking drugs. Shouldn't children be shown exactly what smoking crack and never cleaning your teeth do to the body?

Damn straight.

If you start showing impressionable children that a waste of space like Pete Doherty can be successful, then they'll start emulating his behaviour.

Good on the Beeb for doing the right thing.

  • 8.
  • At 05:10 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

Jodi, he doesn't just get drink and get high. He gets drunk, gets high and gets arrested for posession of illegal drugs and then he gets off because his rehab is going so well.

Personally I would be quite happy to not hear about him on any level.

  • 9.
  • At 05:16 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • James wrote:

I agree with Jodi.

Switched on half way through the interview - but I think it's a good decision to take. He's not known for music now, rather being linked to Kate Moss and court appearances.

  • 10.
  • At 07:24 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Pete Doherty is only news because newspapers like the Daily Mail make him news. If everyone ignored him like the BBc is doing he might just go away

  • 11.
  • At 08:50 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Anthony Rose wrote:

How about not reporting about him because he just isn't news?

  • 12.
  • At 09:32 PM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

Great call - it is when the Daily Mail isn't complaining about the BBC that you really need to start worrying..

And hopefully, as with small children, if you ignore their misbehaviour they will get bored and stop doing it.

  • 13.
  • At 08:29 AM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Viewer wrote:

"...mostly for his drug-taking and crime."

Tim, taking drugs is a crime. Interesting a difference is made between the two.

  • 14.
  • At 08:51 AM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

The Editorial prerogative for Newsround - as with any news media - must be to present meaningful breaking news and current affairs to the target audience. It's difficult to see how Mr Doherty is still making news - other than by making news! - and so there is a kind of resonance, I suppose!

There is always a danger that people who 'shoot'(?) to stardom are going to have anti-role model baggage (gosh! I could be getting into deep..... innuendo here!....)

As affects the target audience in this case: 70% will have gone, "yuk! I could end up like that!"; 20% "...that's cool, but I'd just do the good bits!"; 10% "Yeah man! That's really free!"

There may be some statistical error in my maths but as usual, the majority of kids will see straight through to the reality and there will always be some who will want to emulate what they see as 'cool'.....(yuk!)

I suppose a lifting of the ban - replaced by a health warning - wouldn't fix it? (Oops - there I go again!)

  • 15.
  • At 08:54 AM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Miss M wrote:

Ah, if only every other newspaper and TV programme would follow suit - then none of us would have to suffer his pasty visage again...

What kind of music should the 9 year olds be interested in? Isn't it a self fulfilling prophesy that if you only allow them exposure to, for example, Leona and Westlife and Keane, then that's what they'll become interested in? How about a less prescriptive attitude to music?

  • 17.
  • At 09:34 AM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Kelvin wrote:

Good work hopefully if the media ignores him for long enough he might just go away.It's annoying when idiots idolise him for his off stage antics rather than his music and it's much to do with the press constantly stalking his every moves.
Another thing he still owes me twenty quid for that gig in leeds which he never turned up to becasue he was in too much of a state to play.

Is Newsround's target audience really interested in Pete Doherty? Is anyone these days? Until he actually does anything noteworthy then there's no need for anyone to report on him.

And I'm glad that you've learnt a sensational Mail story featuring your good self isn't the worst thing in the world. It's only when the Mail suddenly starts portraying you as a beacon of moral decency, then that really would be a source of concern...

  • 19.
  • At 11:16 AM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Paul O'Brien wrote:

Focussing on whether he's a role model is completely missing the point. He isn't newsworthy (unless you're a music journalist).

And if he DID do something genuinely important, I'm not convinced that "he's a bad role model" would be a good reason for omitting it from a news programme. Surely it just becomes a factor in how you present the story.

If it was not for his apparent "celeb" status he would have been locked up a long time ago.

Viewer. Drug-taking is not a crime in itself. Possession or supply of certain controlled substances is a crime. There is a difference

  • 22.
  • At 01:37 PM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Damian Tichborne wrote:

If Pete wanted to come on and just play one of his songs, I don't see any reason why he should be banned from doing so. Kids aren't dumb and shouldn't be treated as such.

  • 23.
  • At 02:34 PM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Jennah wrote:

My 11 year old brother is a regular viewer of newsround and when asked whether he were aware who Pete Doherty was he simply referred to him as, 'That drugs guy'. This simple statement alone says a lot of things - the most important being that kids are aware of notorious figures like Doherty and are aware of the world around them. Banning Doherty from Newsround was a sensible and positive move and I for one am glad for it. Besides, you'd lose viewers if you had him on strumming a 'tune'!

  • 24.
  • At 03:34 PM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Jane Chase wrote:

The Libertines (Peter's former band) remain a hugely important part of my life and I've been a fan of Peter for four years now and I continue to admire him for many reasons.

However, the Peter Doherty that I know of, is not the Peter Doherty that he has become. He's been sensationalised and glamourised by the level of media coverage he receives, not by his own actions. I do not feel that he would encourage anyone to take drugs. He's a walking anti-drugs campaign, just as George Best was for alcohol. And anyone who is open to that kind of suggestion will surely find something else to inspire them to rebellion.

It is because of the public's heightened awareness that he seems to have become demonised. I do not think his drug taking has become worse since his Libertines days, in fact he truly does seem to have improved. Nobody thinks drug addiction is a clever or attractive way to live - least of all Peter - and i think if anyone is to blame for his 'character', it is the media. They've created a monster.

Peter shouldn't be on Newsround for the simple reason that he isn't news.

  • 25.
  • At 01:14 AM on 17 Jan 2007,
  • Viewer wrote:

"Possession or supply of certain controlled substances is a crime. There is a difference."

So taking drugs is not a crime, but possession is ... and to take drugs who have to have them in your possession ... mmm.

  • 26.
  • At 06:49 AM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • nehad ismail wrote:

My new year resolution is not to read any articles or listen to any news relatring to Peter Doherty, Kate Moss, Jade Goody and other obnoxious self-publicists.

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