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Too much on Blair?

Gary Smith | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 14 May 2007

Did the BBC do too much on the Blair departure story? Some of you think so. Among your complaints: it’s been reported for months that he’s about to go, so what’s new? He’s not going just yet – in fact he’s not actually going for another seven weeks. One caller even said: “Has Tony Blair died?”

numberten_203ap.jpgValid points. We broadcast a huge amount on this story. Right through the day we covered – exhaustively, some would say - the events, the reaction, and the analysis.

Why?

Because the end of Tony Blair’s prime ministership is an important moment in British politics and British life. It’s a moment to look at his achievements over the past ten years, at what’s gone well and what’s gone badly, and at how his leadership has changed the country.

We received an enormous amount of feedback from our audiences, some negative about aspects of what we said, some positive. But interest was exceptionally high; and the vast majority of the viewers, listeners and readers who communicated with us were enthusiastic about the seriousness with which we treated the story.

You may not have agreed with everything we said, or with the emphasis we put on one aspect of his premiership over another (why so much on Iraq and so little on Northern Ireland?). But broadly you wanted the breadth and depth of what we provided.

And why now? Why not wait till Mr Blair’s last day as prime minister? I suppose the answer is that politics is a brutal business. Once you’ve announced the date of your departure, attention moves on very quickly to the successor, in this case – unless something very surprising happens – Gordon Brown.

So to have waited till the end of June, when Tony Blair finally closes the door of Number 10 behind him, would have seemed like turning up at the party after all the other guests had left. Particularly as every other broadcaster and newspaper also chose this moment for their assessments of the Blair years.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 10:54 AM on 14 May 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

There was some very good coverage of this. Newsnight in particular had some very good debates and analysis. PM did some very good insight, and Question Time was excellent.

The people querying the volume of the coverage are probably alluding to things like sending reporters to dozens of locations, and even getting the ruddy helicopter off the ground [again].

I have some sympathy with that - it does seem a little over the top to have the blanket coverage on News 24. But the quantity of the coverage should not detract from the quality of specific programmes about this.

Even if the fact that Martha Kearney was voicing the films on Newsnight gave a clue as to how long you had been preparing for this, so shame to have let it all go to waste ;-]

  • 2.
  • At 11:36 AM on 14 May 2007,
  • Ross Bearman wrote:

My only question would be, are the BBC going to do exactly the same thing, with the same material when he actualy leaves? Or will he just receive a small news item, surely there is no need to go over it all again in seven weeks time.

  • 3.
  • At 12:00 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • jim-uk wrote:

Did this story really need people reporting from just about every corner of the country? The bloke is retiring and we've known this for quite a while, one could be forgiven for thinking he'd been assassinated judging by the over the top reporting on News24.

  • 4.
  • At 12:14 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • Susan Hibberd wrote:

I would like the answer to Ross' question in message 2.

As it being 55 years since Her Majsty's accession, The Queen's offical birthday should get the higher profile.

  • 5.
  • At 12:30 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • R.MUGGERIDGE wrote:

I thought the BBC & indeed other news media coverage of PM Blair's declaration was just about right during the day. It was correct that the leader of the nation should have this type of news covered on mainstream & not only new channels. I suspect most objectors were from the group fixated on Blair's Iraq quagmire or straightforward Tory Daily Mail readers! BBC coverage of Blair's announcement culminated with a really excellent Newsnight panel of notable opposites Chaired by Paxman: This fine programme actually assessed the "10 years" & not just a war which gave it a credibility many other so-called 'legacy' items lacked. Theatrical political drama was encapsulated with Michael Howerd's sudden outburst of vitriol against Alastair Campbell's "spinning" & his (Campbell) riposte, "You just didn't like losing Michael, get over it!" Brilliant.

  • 6.
  • At 01:06 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

By anybody's standards, Blair's resignation is a huge story, and it deserves plenty of in-depth coverage. I certainly wouldn't criticise you for spending too much time on it.

You could even spent more time on it if you hadn't given so much air time to the story of 1 girl how disappeared in Portugal, which really doesn't merit anything like the coverage you've given it (and certainly doesn't even come close to the significance of the resignation of a prime minister). It's interesting, though, that you don't seem to want to be told that: I was surprised to see my comment on your blog on that subject of 10 May wasn't published.

As for whether your coverage was biased, I'm quite sure it's impossible to report a story like Blair's resignation without upsetting someone. It seems that you've attracted criticism in more or less equal measure from both the left and the right, which suggests to me that you've done a pretty good job of giving as unbiased a view as you reasonably can.

  • 7.
  • At 02:05 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • J M Deene wrote:

The BBC has always fallen for the Blair publicity machine. His government lends itself too well to facile BBC (television) news: new news about new initiatives every day.

His departure--complete with Diana-style helicopter footage of his car approaching Trimdon Labour Club--was too good to miss!

I do wish the BBC danced to its own tune... or maybe it already does.

  • 8.
  • At 02:58 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • KOAS wrote:

For me, having only just become an adult, Tony Blair is the only Prime Minister I have ever really known. For me, we are now entering a new and uncertain time when there will be a new leader of the country and yet not one that I have had a say in electing. For me, this is a momentous event.

Election, I say!

  • 9.
  • At 04:26 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • Phillip wrote:

The news coverage of Tony Blair was 'obscene' given we have the parents of Madeleine McCann having to continue fighting to keep active in the public and media attention for coverage in finding and returning safely Madeleine to her loving parents.

Please do consider such emotive issues when you undertake 'obsessive' media coverage of Tony Blair - who may I add to date has not once mentioned Madeleine McCann, he has not sent a message of thoughts and prayers to Madeleine's parents.

Why is this? Does this show a Prime Minister who is caring - these are the questions you should ask of Tony Blair

  • 10.
  • At 05:48 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • j.roberts wrote:

Please no more smiling Blair faces every day,we have had it for 10 years. and can someone explain what happens if labour elect a deputy who Mr Brown cannot work with assuming he is Prime Minister

  • 11.
  • At 10:06 PM on 14 May 2007,
  • Jack Hughes wrote:

Far too much coverage. The worst and most crass example was the "today" programme on Radio4 on Friday morning.

"Steve with the sport" was asked for a quick eulogy on the Blair legacy to sport.

Truly moronic reporting.

Who is this Tony Blair chap anyway?

  • 13.
  • At 08:39 AM on 17 May 2007,
  • Penelope Ells wrote:

Yes there was entirely too much coverage on Blair and his departure - it was so boring I stopped watching the news in fact.

You should have been concentrating on the fact that this country has now had foisted on it a Prime Minister for whom we did not vote which is a total disgrace. In addition to his representing a Scottish constituency so therefore should have no say in English affairs.

  • 14.
  • At 08:43 AM on 17 May 2007,
  • Penelope Ells wrote:

Yes tehre was entirely too much coverage on Blair and his departure - it was so boring I stopped watching the news in fact.

You should have been concentrating on the fact that this country has now had foisted on it a Prime Minister for whom we did not vote which is a total disgrace. In addition to his representing a Scottish constituency so therefore should have no say in English affairs.

  • 15.
  • At 01:22 AM on 18 May 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

the man is stepping down, is that not enough. myself i think we have lost a great leader, and that you the media have shot him down, when in fact it was the weak under him that should have been shot at, he did not create 9/11 but had to do something for which he is now paying because of your woeful support.
tell me what would you have done in that situation? just as i thought, stuck your head in the sand and wished the clowns of the u.n. would come to hand. the u.n. is much like a useless police force.
its a dangerous world we live in, in which war I'm afraid will not go away over night.
the bigger the man the bigger the fall. lets face it you would prefer to put your product first before your country. :(

  • 16.
  • At 12:12 PM on 20 May 2007,
  • C R POPE wrote:

We have had far too much coverage on Tony Blair ... about 10 years too much I would suggest !
I also believe that the last fews months has had more to do with creating a 'false' lagacy rather than identifying 'factual' achievements.

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