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Children's concern

Tim Levell | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 4 May 2007

A debate in the Newsround office right now is whether to cover the story of David Hasselhoff being filmed drunk by his daughters.

Newsround logoThere are many many families up and down Britain where drunken parents can cause great upset for their children - and even rip families apart.

The fact that David Hasselhoff has released a statement saying that his daughters were "concerned for my well-being" and that he has seen the tape and "learned from it" means that he has accepted the problem and is on-side with the tape being shown.

And it's a powerful example of how concerned children can help their parents get through their troubles.

But the video is undeniably strong. One clip shows him struggling to eat a hamburger; in another he says he is "lonely" because he has "trouble in our life".

hasselhoff_203ap.jpgIt should go without saying that we would do this as a story about children raising concerns about their parents' behaviour -- not in any way making light of what's happened.

Since I started writing this entry, one of our reporters has been talking to Alcohol Concern, who've told us that "as long as we do it responsibly, it could be beneficial".

We are erring on the side of doing it - and on the side of showing some but not all of the video. (Another discussion is whether we show the video full-screen or somehow shrink it or have it in the background.) Bearing in mind that we aim at six- to 12-year-old children, what do you think?


  • 1.
  • At 01:34 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

Okay, Tim: What you do is run an audio track of the proceedings, together with selected stills that display Mr H's condition, but which do not engender fear in your young viewers. By this means you get the message across without creating soap-like 'suds' - of the worst kind! It will have the impact but without the intimidation - which causes the target audience to overload and 'turn off', perhaps?

  • 2.
  • At 02:01 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • Aaron McKenna wrote:

Pwhor, difficult one. On the one hand you're addressing a real issue for kids, one of those hard-to-look-at ones that is nevertheless vital to address. On the other hand, it could prompt kids to get themselves into trouble, video taping adults in drunken situations and also in other situations as well - for example, video tape a teacher in a classroom, undermining that teachers authority by posting these videos on the internet.

Catch 22. I'd err on the side of showing it also, but make sure to tell the kids that there are boundaries over which you shouldn't cross.

  • 3.
  • At 02:21 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • anon wrote:

My mother was an alcoholic as I was growing up and, for all I know, still is. One of the many problems with this condition is that is kept within the family. I can't bring myself to watch the video, and am sure that if I had seen it as a child it would have crushed what spirit I had, but raising sympathy among other children is irrelevant. They won't know who among their friends they are feeling sympathetic for. I don't doubt your ability to handle the footage responsibly in a children's programme, but I cannot see what possible good it could do. I suggest you leave it to adult programmes where parents might see and learn from it.

  • 4.
  • At 02:36 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • Duncan Hill wrote:

I think this is one of those cases where it needs to be done carefully. I think it should be done, but in conjunction with advice from the likes of alcohol concern, Childline or other relevant agencies and maybe even with a panel of parents with their children before being put on air.

  • 5.
  • At 02:48 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • Sam Brighton wrote:

The question is not only whether this is suitable viewing for children but whether it is actually news at all. Exactly how is it in the public interest to show this video, of a man that is hardly known to children in the UK and who is clearly in turmoil (whether that's his own doing or not)?

It is sensational gossip and not worthy of BBC news, and certainly not on Newsround.

  • 6.
  • At 02:49 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • james stevens wrote:

No, you shouldn't show it.

This is a private video from someones private life. Just because someone else leaked the video doesn't make it right to relay it.

Apart from anything, since when did an adult being drunk amount to News?

  • 7.
  • At 03:06 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • lydia bonaventura wrote:

I would guess the actors daughters are a good deal older than your 6-12 yr.old viewers, who could being placing themselves at real risk should they attempt to follow the example of intervening by shaming their parent. It also lulls children into a false sence of security regarding their abilty to change adults, whose fragility and/or volatilty a child could not assess.

For children who do not have alcoholics in the family, this story would at best be meaningless and may be unnecessarily disturbing. For those young people who do have acoholic parents, this story, and the solution it advocates, is too crude to be useful.

  • 8.
  • At 03:10 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • Jeff S wrote:

I think it should be shown. It may be shocking to some children who haven't experienced situations like that before but it can only provoke discussion between these children and their parents about alcohol abuse.

More importantly, many children with alcoholic parents feel as if they are the only ones who are going through it. If seeing that video makes those children feel less alone and more empowered to do something to help their parents then it can only be a good thing.

  • 9.
  • At 03:30 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • alex wrote:

dont show it, its not even news, he got who cares? children will probably copy him anyway, if they even know who he is...

Thanks for your comments so far. Update: We are going to do it, and show a couple of short clips from the video. The thoughts of Alcohol Concern were useful in helping shape our decision.

I thought about the comment from anon (3) carefully, and I realise that is a very valid point. I suppose one thing to bear in mind is that children of alcoholic parents will react in different ways, as Jeff S (8) suggests.

Aaron's point (2) was interesting. We heard another news channel say that David Hasselhoff asked his daughters to film him, so after reading Aaron's comment we thought it would be good to add a line to our script saying that they videoed him with his permission. But unfortunately we can't get this fact confirmed.

PeeVeeAh's solution (1) is a good one, and one we sometimes use. We haven't used it this time - it would have been another alternative.

To those who think it isn't news - I think the fact that daughters have managed to have this apparently positive impact on their father is overall worth broadcasting.

If you get a chance to see the programme this afternoon (5.25pm, BBC One) then let me know what you think.

  • 11.
  • At 04:10 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • merle wrote:

If the BBC is planning to tabloid, do it properly. Rather than spotlighting some American B-grade booze artist, why don't you zoom in on some of your own home-grown soaks? I visited London for the first time with my kids last year, took them to see Mary Poppins and stepped out of the theatre into a drunken brawl. My son stepped on a broken beer bottle, sustaining a gash through his sandal and was sworn at by a foul-mouthed Brit. Britain's got enough of an alcoholic gene pool and silently traumatised children of alcoholics, without descending to cheap voyeurism across the pond.

  • 12.
  • At 04:20 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • wacca wrote:

My daughter saw this this morning on GMTV. She is 5 years old. I personally fpund it very sad and disturbing to watch. As the daughter of an alchoholic parent it was very hard to watch. My daughter thought he was a very rude man and wanted to know why he was being like that. I explained that some people drink too much and some people don't know when to stop drinking and that he was very sick and it was very sad. Then she said ,"We don't have anyone like that in our family." I was surprised by this, because we do. But it did get us talking, although I was uncomfortable with her watching it. It didn't disturb her. It just made her curious and she asked questions. So I suppose it may help some kids to understand.
It's a difficult one to call.

  • 13.
  • At 04:24 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

Ah, but it's not just any old adult being drunk (James Stevens, #6) it's a member of the cringeing cult of 'celebrity' - albeit a washed-up, D-list one - and apparently that makes all the difference these days (rolls eyes)...

No, you shouldn't show it. It's essentially a private video and holds no real interest other than for the sensationalists. I hate to see the BBC stooping to these levels and broadcasting Hasselhoff's sad plight captured in a very unfortunate instant. So now the 'Beeb' is heading down the big 'You' Tube. Surely you have other more interesting things to report? There are plenty of other sites where one can go and view that trite rubbish. I hope the BBC isn't one of them. Maybe I'm too late...

  • 15.
  • At 04:51 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • Paul D wrote:

The one question no one appears to be asking is how the recording came into the public domain in the first place. The concept of 'leaking' has has somehow become respectable but the bottom line is that, if this is material was not deliberately released from a legitimate source, nobody has the right to use it.

If you want to show people behaving badly because they are drunk, you only need cctv footage from just about anywhere in the land on a Saturday night. It seems to me that that has very little to do with 'drunks fouling up family life' and everything to do with the rich and famous being 'fair game'.

  • 16.
  • At 05:47 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

Having watched the Newsround presentation just now, I think you took a very 'safe' line (you can't win, you know!).

The clip of the daughters' video illustrated an important aspect of the addiction - and resistance to its avoidance - using a largely anonymous, non-facial shot. That got over the potential 'nightmare' scenario for the young audience, without avoiding the intransigent behaviour of the inebriated 'Hof.

A good message - and one that I hope might help empower kids to raise the flag of the UK national instances to a waiting support infrastructure?.....

Let's hope so.

  • 17.
  • At 06:47 AM on 05 May 2007,
  • James wrote:

Dear Tim, is a 5-9 year old really going to understand the many complex issues behind this videotape? I'm sure you'll tread carefully and responsibly, but these impressionable minds could easily get the wrong end of the stick (there are many "wrong ends" which could be grasped in this story!)
If you've been debating this at all, then you clearly don't have a strong alcohol policy in place already at newsround, and i would suggest (too late it seems) you do NOT show any of it, but use the event as a kickboard to start formulating an alcohol policy, inviting as many experts in alcohol education as you can find, and then next time something like this happens, you'll be strong and ready to go with a clear idea of how you'll approach the story - and then your reporting will at least show some thought leadership.

to merle: i returned to london after two years away and was disgusted and saddened by what i came across in leicester square on a friday evening. horrible. i won't be coming back in a hurry.

  • 18.
  • At 07:27 AM on 05 May 2007,
  • James wrote:

lydia & wacca above have made excellent points.
please consider, those that have an alcohol problem but don't recognise/accept it really HATE to be told or advised not to drink. they (i speak from personal experience) can get petulant, angry, upset, even violent. an alcoholic-in-denial coming home from a friday night in the pub to be confronted with little johhny & a video camera is going to cause some nasty domestic scenes, i fear.
"daddy, newsround says Hong Kong has two new panda bears," may get a shrug, and "daddy, newsround says two glasses of wine a day is good for you," would probably get them a hug. although that would be a very irresponsible story for you to run... ah to be an editor, ever on the fine line! but i hope you consider the effect your stories have not only on the little guys & gals viewing them but also the whole family as your topics are raised later in the evening.

  • 19.
  • At 11:29 AM on 05 May 2007,
  • Dom wrote:

Of course you're going to do it. When was there any realistic possibility you wouldn't? I agree you should take the sensitive angle; that way it makes it sound almost like you're doing a public service.

  • 20.
  • At 08:01 PM on 06 May 2007,
  • Christopher Hobe Morrison wrote:

Remember, there are lots of kids who have seen far worse than this every day. Has anybody thought of whether it is right or too shocking? As always, if what you are showing is integrated into a whole which has a constructive purpose and if it doesn't go beyond a line of acceptability which is set by you based on your own professional standards, then do it. By all means put it in context and explain why you are doing it. Get some people from the alcoholism places and maybe the daughters to explain it (love to have them explain it to me sometime, heheh!).

Oh, you might also give people the chance to not watch it if it is too horrific for them. I wonder if they ever saw someone lying in the gutter puking on themselves?

  • 21.
  • At 10:37 PM on 06 May 2007,
  • Daffers wrote:

I was sorry to see you'd decided to show it. I thought you would all along, and I'm really not sure you weren't just looking for some good excuses. If it were part of a longer look at alcohol then perhaps, but Newsround is too short and it will probably be just yet another Celebrity shock-horror. I hope you change your minds.

  • 22.
  • At 07:17 AM on 07 May 2007,
  • Des Currie wrote:

Show it. Show the complete video. There must be something in showng a drunk why one prefers to keep clear of them. At least they will then understand why they seem to be so alone and so drunk.
And the video has it all, I would think.
Des Currie

  • 23.
  • At 04:00 PM on 07 May 2007,
  • Anna Holand wrote:

As a recovering alcoholic who in the past has put my now grown-up kids through some pretty hard times during drunken binges, I just wish they'd filmed me at my worst and shown ME the evidence. It may have made me realise how bad things can get. However, I don't think showing this essentially private video to children will be helpful to anyone, and I would consider the BBC to be going down the sensationalist route if they did so.

  • 24.
  • At 01:40 PM on 08 May 2007,
  • Marika Morris wrote:

I think it is an excellent idea to show this video. Many children are struggling with the same thing in their homes: parents who are drunk, high and/or abusive. I think showing this video will show these kids that they are not alone, as long as you also tell children how they can seek help. It will also be a wake-up call to sober and non-abusive adults to show them what goes on in other homes, and that they have a duty to intervene to protect children. Since the UK was recently deemed the worst or one of the worst places for children to live in the industrialized world, perhaps showing this video will raise public awareness and support for children's services.

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