Peter Horrocks

Crosses banned?

The Daily Star yesterday had a memorable headline - "PC Prats cross at TV Fiona crucifix". I imagine the Star had a BBC boss like me in mind as a "PC Prat" - although I'm not angry and certainly not angry about any cross Fiona Bruce might wear.

Fiona BruceLet me be clear, the BBC hasn't banned anything - whether veils, crosses, hijabs, scarves, skull caps, turbans or burkhas. What we have been discussing is what it's appropriate for newsreaders to wear, especially at a time of heightened religious tension.

The debate puts in opposition some principles the BBC stands for. The BBC is a supporter of freedom of expression. Equally we want our newsreaders to be seen as entirely impartial. Any religious clothing or insignia they wear could make some viewers question their impartiality. We were asked the hypothetical question of what we would do in the event that a Muslim newsreader wanted to wear a head scarf or veil. I suspect that some of the newspapers that have been poking fun at our consideration of wearing crosses would find a veil-wearing newsreader highly newsworthy, to put it mildly.

Anyway this is just a debate at the moment. It's a new area for us to consider and that means there is an opportunity for viewers to let us know what you think. So what would you prefer: Freedom of expression or complete impartiality in attire?

Peter Horrocks is head of BBC Newsroom

Peter Barron

What not to wear

The hot debate in BBC News at the moment concerns a hypothetical question. What would we do if a newsreader of Muslim origin returned from holiday in Pakistan and said that from now on she wants to read the news wearing a headscarf?

Newsnight logoTricky, certainly. But I think the chances of that particular scenario happening are so unlikely it's not worth worrying about unduly. It's far more likely surely that one day soon a Muslim journalist who happens to wear a headscarf will become a reporter and then a presenter on national television. I reckon it might cause a stir for a day or two and then we'd all carry on. On Newsnight, Hardeep Singh Kohli has been presenting Newsnight Review for more than a year wearing a turban - sometimes a shocking pink one - and as far as I'm aware the world has not ended.

Then Jeremy went to interview a group of schoolchildren on the day Tony Blair went on Blue Peter (watch the piece here), and the fact that he went to a school in Southall where the vast majority of pupils are not white caused shrieks of displeasure from some viewers. How typical, they suggested, that Newsnight should pick such a school.

But the thing is it's not typical. The vast majority of the guests we book on Newsnight are male, white and middle-aged, so are the majority of our viewers. And as Paul Mason's internal poshometer shows, Newsnight staff are hardly representative of the nation as a whole either.

You might say that's fine then. But what will happen in Britain if sizeable minorities feel that the news is not about people like them, not made by people like them, not for people like them. Problems ahead I'd suggest, but at least the headscarf conundrum might remain hypothetical.

Peter Barron is editor of Newsnight

Tim Levell

The kids' verdict on David.

Two Newsround young reporters interviewed Gordon Brown last week, and on our BBC One programme, we carried out a text vote, which resulted in three-quarters of those who voted deciding they didn't want him as prime minister.

Newsround logoWe did the same thing yesterday with David Cameron. And the completely unscientific, wholly-for-fun results are..

Just over 1,500 people voted. A small majority, 815, said YES, they did want him as prime minister. Slightly fewer, 671, said NO, they didn't.

Tim Levell is editor of Newsround


BBC in the news, Thursday

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  • 5 Oct 06, 09:43 AM

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