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Feedback: Are some things too horrible to broadcast?

Friday 1 June 2012, 18:00

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Roger Bolton

Feedback's presenter Roger Bolton

"Did they really say that? Why on earth would they want that broadcast? Do they really know what the consequences could be of millions of people listening in to some very private moments?"

All these thoughts went through my head when I heard the two part series The Trouble with Kane on Radio 4.

The producer followed a 12 year old boy arrested for possession of cannabis, who instead of being taken into custody is one of the first people in Britain to be dealt with through a combination of family therapy and home drug testing.

Of course I was riveted by the programmes, and stopped the car until they were over, but I wondered whether I should feel guilty for listening in?

And how much detail do we need to know about the horrors of the world?

Foreign Correspondent Mike Thomson talked to Zawadi Mongane a woman who had suffered terribly at the hands of rebel Rwandan rebel soldiers in the Congo. They made her hang her own child.

Did we need to know that and to listen to her tearful interview?

Another programme, Victoria Derbyshire on 5Live, broadcast from an abortion clinic, talking to some of the clients and spelling out the details of what happened there. Was this suitable for broadcasting to a mass audience?

All these were undeniably powerful, and in some cases, award winning, programmes, and three of the reporters and producers involved came into the Feedback studio to discuss the issues raised.

Here is that discussion.

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Afterwards I wondered if there was an age issue here.

My parents were born before the first world war and were pretty tight lipped about their private feelings, at least outside the home.

Although I would probably count as a child, or at least a teenager, of the 60s, I too was, perhaps still am, reticent about my private life., not that there is much to hide I say quickly.

Are today's teenagers, with information about anything, including porn, a mere switch way really any different? I suspect talking about ones deepest feelings is never easy, for anyone.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

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    Comment number 1.

    "Was this suitable for broadcasting to a mass audience?"

    Yes. The idea to broadcast from an abortion clinic was an excellent one. It is much better that women considering a termination know what it is like inside a clinic and are aware of what the simple procedure entails. All of the staff interviewed clearly had the best interests of the women at heart.

    It was disappointing, however, to hear a priest who was protesting outside the clinic refer to it as a "killing factory". Using highly emotive and misleading language like this helps no one. In fact, it may cause a lot of harm to vulnerable women who find themselves pregnant. It was also very disappointing to hear that doctors who carry out the procedures would not talk to Ms Derbyshire for fear of being identified and attacked by extremists.

    The case referred to of a woman who died after drinking vinegar in an attempt to abort a foetus was very distressing. I fear that if a woman's right to have an abortion were restricted more women would die as a consequence of attempting to carry out their own.

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    Comment number 2.

    Far be it from me to take the part of a priest, but anyone who does not agree that an abortion kills a life of a growing human being is misinformed. Abortion remaining legal is society agreeing that the physiological life of the mother, or her psychological quality of life is more important the the life of a conceived child. Quit crying about protestors unless you are going to prevent all protestors from harassing people over politically sanctioned activity.

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    Comment number 3.

    Roger, you pose an interesting question. I have been travelling in South Africa over the past few weeks and there has been an uproar over a satirical painting of the SA president titled The Spear, photos of which were published across local media. The ruling ANC party brought a court action against both the gallery and publishing media houses because it "was an attack on the dignity of the president" and it was subsequently withdrawn.

    The scenario you describe is voluntary on the parts of those disclosing what may be unacceptable content. In that case I think it should be at the listener's discretion as to whether they should listen in or not.

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    Comment number 4.

    Yes, I would say all three topics were appropriate for reporting, especially because identity was protected. It's important, newsworthy to know that these things are happening in our world; perhaps a good idea can be shared, a solution recommended, or vile distaste expressed for something that is occurring.
    We cannot go about like blind persons - or monkeys that see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Mind you, the audience participant can always choose not to listen.


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