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Between times

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 10:08 UK time, Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Two weeks ago, during our coverage of the Olympic Torch relay protests in London, the BBC broadcast a report from Beijing, suggesting there had been no coverage of the protests, in China. Like much of the coverage associated with the recent trouble in Tibet, it has provoked a lot of discussion in China and on video sites like YouTube.

While James Reynolds's report (which you can watch here) was first broadcast on Sunday 6 April at 1900 BST, the items featured on YouTube were transmitted the following day - so the video is disingenuous. However, while it is true that at the time James's report was compiled no Chinese media had reported the protests, between the item being recorded and the report being broadcast, we now understand that some Chinese media did report the protests - although not the main channel, CCTV1, featured in James's report. It was wrong of us to suggest that the Chinese authorities tried to keep news of the protests off the air. When we make a mistake, we need to apologise. I'm happy to do so.


  • 1.
  • At 11:33 AM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Morten Benito wrote:

Well that 'apology' included everything except an actual apology. If you're 'happy to' apologise, then say it!

  • 2.
  • At 11:42 AM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • alan wahlers wrote:

This reminds me of the time of the miners strike, when a television report on national news showed a film clip of an empty coal train crossing the viaduct in Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. The commentary referred to the fact that no coal was leaving the nearby Sherwood Colliery and that the blockade was working.

Local people would identify that the coal train was in fact heading towards the colliery!

We should never forget that television can easily misrepresent the facts and we rely on the honesty and integrity of the people involved to present the situation fairly.

Will you be apologising on telly in a manner as visible as the original report? Because otherwise it's not really an apology, is it, it's sort of saying "aw, shucks" out of the side of your mouth and hoping no-one will hear you...

  • 4.
  • At 12:00 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • LilypadGrandad wrote:

It is a matter of degree as to whether an apology is necessary. If the reports are only in the Shanghai Dental Technicians Weekly .........

  • 5.
  • At 12:02 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • ciaran murphy wrote:

After watching the youtube report, i was stunned by the well thought out counter attack by the chinese on the bbc's james reynolds, it really does go to show you that the chinese are not really that opressive at all & we can now look at them in a different light, having said that it takes a biiger man to realise his mistake to publicly, and im sure a little humiliated to apoligise.

  • 6.
  • At 12:21 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Youping wrote:

Thanks, Jon, for this blog. And actually, CCTV news channel (something like BBC news) did have coverage of the torch relay protests and there were pannel discussions on this topic on the channel.

  • 7.
  • At 12:40 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • timmy wrote:

How many Britons will see this apology? when the hurt is made, twice difficult to mend it.

  • 8.
  • At 12:49 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • nonothing wrote:

How about the using ambulance to demonstrate "heavy military presence" thing? I saw you said you made a mistake. but you didn't apologise. I feel that one also needs an apology. Don't you think so?

What more? The BBC London torch relay live coverage commentators happily call grabbing torch as peaceful protest. Should they not apologise?

Why did the BBC make too many mistakes in such short period and all regarding China? Coincidence? I hope so.

  • 9.
  • At 01:19 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Nan Wang wrote:

You should also apologise for your bias boardcasting on torch relay in london.

  • 10.
  • At 01:35 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Winnie Johnstone wrote:

I think that not just this news mislead all audience from BBC. We chinese has been keeping all what BBC reported, reporting about chinese news, these for future eviedenc to sue BBC unfair, truthless and mislead all of worldwide audience, we will let BBC pay us back.

  • 11.
  • At 01:38 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Jia Xu wrote:

Dear Editor,

I appreciate your effort and thanks for your apology (as insincere as it was). However i can't help pointing out the following:

1. James said in his report: "The Chinese Communist Party has a simple rule, it won't show any pictures which ruin this country's idea of a trouble-free games". Evidently, this rule does not exist and I feel this remark was extremely unprofessional and self presumptious. James Reynolds seemed to me, lacks some of the most fundamental professionalism of being a journalist. Most importantly it gave out the wrong message to, and misled, the British general public about the modern China, ONCE AGAIN. I can safely say that the damage, which had already been done by repetitive broadcasts of this report through BBC's main channels, is so great, that your apology on this blog simply could not justify.

2. I also noticed that you particularly made a point on the fact that when the report was initially broadcast there weren't yet any report of the event in Chinese Media. However, I would like to point out that I saw the same report repeated on BBC's midnight news on 6th April. The same report stayed on BBC's website for several more days. Doesn't the BBC have a continuing fact checking responsibility on the stories you put on air? I think you can see why it's hard for me to believe the BBC's impatiality.

I belive it is only appropriate, if the BBC apologises, and more importantly, makes corrections of its mistake on the same programs that it had broadcast this false report. Otherwise, as a BBC Licence payer and a Chinese citizen, I would have no choice but to seek further justice from Ofcom.

Jia Xu

  • 12.
  • At 01:40 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Jiang wrote:

This is not the only thing you should apologise, and don't pretend this to be just another caseul mistakes you make by playing it down towards the end. BBC would never be forgiven by Chinese people.

The result of your coverage over the Olympic relay in London is a more united China. So thank you.

  • 13.
  • At 01:51 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • S Wang wrote:

James said in his report: "The Chinese Communist Party has a simple rule, it won't show any pictures which ruin this country's idea of a trouble-free games".
This is not just the issue of the wrong suggestion. This is totally a biased, jaundiced, one sided view, which is totally anti China. I am very dissapointed in your news reporting service lately. I guess now what we are hearing is being edited to what you like us to hear.

  • 14.
  • At 01:51 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Han wrote:

BBC was my favorite media before the Tibet incident. But now, I realize that BBC coverage of Chinese issue are full of lies.

If BBC doesn’t fire the biased correspondences, BBC’s reputation in Chinese community will be (has been) deeply damaged.

Jon just gave us an excuse for James’s “mistake”.
But I don’t understand why:
1,James used several times “won’t”. How dare a journalist judge the future events based on his silly bias?
2, it took BBC 2 weeks to realize this “mistake”?
3,Jon said “at the time James's report was compiled no Chinese media had reported the protests…..” How many Chinese media had BBC checked at that time? I am not going to be fooled by this kind of excuse.

When you make a mistake, you need to apologise. That’s right.
When you deliberately make a “mistake”, for BBC won sake, apology is not enough to recover its reputation.

  • 15.
  • At 03:32 PM on 16 Apr 2008,
  • Jun Yao wrote:

apologise not accepted by me, a Chinese individual. I see you did not realised what you have done wrong on the 6th April in London, which your apologise is much more needed.

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