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When to speak up, when to shut up

Ros Atkins Ros Atkins | 17:57 UK time, Wednesday, 28 June 2006

One of the hardest things presenting this programme is deciding when to interrupt a conversation, and when to keep my mouth shut. I know that one guest in yesterday's discussion about the abducted Israeli soldier felt that I allowed other guests an unfair advantage. (You can listen to Tuesday's programme by selecting it on the right of the front page of the blog.)

It certainly wasn't my intention to do that. I've also been criticised by one of you during a programme a few weeks ago for allowing a factual mistake to pass by. Maybe if I explain my aims when I'm presenting that will help you understand why I do what I do. And if you don't think I'm getting my priorities right, then I'm happy for you to put me right.

So here's what I aim for:
- to explain the stories you want to talk about so they are clear to you wherever in the world you are listening.
- to allow you to talk to each other with as little interruption as possible.
- to make sure that everyone taking part in a discussion is given a fair opportunity to put their point of view.
- to stop anyone feeling that they are being abused or insulted.
- to correct factual errors if they are being used to support an argument.
- to provide context, for instance when one of you refers to something or someone which may be well known in your country but necessarily to all of you listening around the world.

And that's it really. But the problem comes with the second point - my desire to let you talk uninterrupted as much as possible. We always say on this programme that we want you to set the agenda and we mean it. This doesn't just mean you choose the stories but also you decide how a story is discussed. I don't want to to keep butting in telling you to talk about one particular element of a story or another.

Clearly sometimes an intervention is necessary, but I would rather you correct each other where possible. So I may leave a discussion longer than I might when presenting other BBC news programmes such as The World Today. I have no intention of allowing unpleasant behaviour, a refusal to answer a question, or an incorrect fact, to pass without comment, but I will give you the chance to pick up on it before I do. If you listen to last night's programme you will hear one guest asking another to allow him to speak. I didn't have to say a word in that case.

It's not an exact science and we don't get it right all the time. All of us who present World Have Your Say have no interest in taking one side or another. We do have an interest in the programme being in your hands as much as possible though, and that will affect when we decide to speak up.

Speak to you in a few minutes' time.


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