BBC BLOGS - The Editors

BBC News at Six on Wednesday, 17 March

Post categories:

James Stephenson | 20:50 UK time, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

In tonight's BBC News at Six we mistakenly used an image of the late Pc Ian Terry.

Pc Terry was a firearms officer with Greater Manchester Police. He was killed during a training exercise in June 2008.

His photograph was used in a report looking at the impact of unemployment on different sectors of the economy.

The intention was to use images of individuals which are cleared for this kind of use. Instead an image of Pc Terry was used. We have taken steps to ensure the error is not repeated.

I would like to apologise unreservedly for the mistake and for any distress caused to Pc Terry's family, friends and colleagues.

James Stephenson is editor of the BBC News at Six and Ten

Reporting from Gaza

James Stephenson | 10:31 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The BBC is lucky to have two outstanding producers in our Gaza office, Rushdi Abu Alouf and Hamada Abuqammar. They have been well trained, not least by Alan Johnston, and are giving calm, accurate, accounts of what is happening. Hamas has not imposed any restrictions on their reporting and they have been a model of impeccable journalism, in terrible personal circumstances. Most of us go home when the story is over. Gaza is their home.

The great frustration so far, is that we have not been able to send colleagues to help report the story in Gaza. The Israelis have not let any journalists in since the fighting started, despite a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court that they should do so. We are obviously pressing as hard as we can to get in.

Since we can't get our own crews and correspondents into Gaza, we are dependent on our shots from the border and news agency pictures from inside. The aerial bombardment on Gaza has been easily visible, both on the Israeli and Egyptian border. The continued rocket fire out of Gaza has also been clear to see and film.

So far we have not seen any footage of the fighting on the ground. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the conflict, we are certainly seeing images of its consequences - destroyed buildings and many dead and injured Palestinians and the more limited death and destruction on the Israeli side.

There is a military censor in Israel and we've received text messages reminding us that any material touching on national security is meant to be submitted before broadcast. In practice, we haven't cleared anything before use. At one point, we had a live position next to Israeli artillery near the border with one cannon in clear view. We were not allowed to show a wide shot revealing the extent and location of the battery - and we said so in the live broadcast.

The Israeli military declared a closed military zone around Gaza a couple of days into the conflict and tried to push the broadcasters' satellite trucks back from their vantage points overlooking the Strip. A game of cat and mouse followed and we have been able to keep going with a view over the border. We've also reported live from Sderot, the Israeli town most threatened by the rocket fire from Gaza.

Update: Your comments on the BBC's reporting are welcome below; for general comments about the Middle East and its politics, please use this Have Your Say discussion.

James Stephenson is chief of the Jerusalem bureau.

Robust argument

James Stephenson | 14:42 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

We have had a number of complaints about the views Kelvin Mackenzie expressed on Question Time last night concerning Scotland. He is a high profile former editor of a tabloid newspaper - and current Sun columnist - with strong opinions to match.

questiontimelogo_new2007.jpgQuestion Time considers Kelvin Mackenzie to be a suitable panellist since the programme is committed to including a wide range of views and perspectives.

His views are controversial - but robust argument is what the debate on Question Time is about. There is no question of the BBC or Question Time endorsing the views of any panellist who appears on the programme. Scotland was not the subject of the question asked and his view was robustly rejected both by other panellists and members of the audience. David Dimbleby pointed out that his Sun column is not even carried in the Scottish edition of the paper.

The programme is pre-recorded earlier in the evening, but is only edited to deal with legal or technical issues. His views did not fall into that category and it would not therefore have been appropriate to edit them out.

Question Time returns

James Stephenson | 13:46 UK time, Thursday, 20 September 2007

Question Time is back tonight after its summer break - some compensation we hope for the sudden autumn chill and the nights drawing in!

Question Time logoInteractivity and so-called user generated content - that's you giving us what goes in the show - are the buzz words of the moment. And you can't be much more user-generated than the classic Question Time formula of inviting 150 members of the public to tell it like it is to senior politicians and other public figures.

This week's line-up includes Christiane Amanpour - probably the most famous woman in TV news - who's just appeared on a list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. I'm sure Paddy Ashdown will be ready to face the third degree about Sir Ming's leadership of the Lib Dems if that's what people want to talk about. You can tell us what you'd like discussed by clicking here.

If QT is a classic formula, there's still always room for improvement. This spring, Mentorn beat off fierce competition from other independent companies to continue making the show and they're introducing new elements to freshen things up. There's a new set and titles - bringing the show closer to the style of BBC One and BBC News. Let us know what you think. Question Time now has its own audience seating, making it possible to go to a much wider range of locations across the country.

There are also two additional shows - Question Time Extra will run straight after Question Time on BBC News 24, giving everyone at home a chance to have a say about this week's debate. And you can see an edited highlights version of the main show, again on News 24 at 20:30 on Saturday evening.

The younger generation

James Stephenson | 16:32 UK time, Thursday, 5 July 2007

Question Time logoLots of things seem designed to make us feel our age, but having an 18-year-old panellist on Question Time has got to be right up there with fresh-faced policemen or thirty-something Cabinet ministers.

Well, we've got two out of three on tonight's special edition of Question Time. Charlie Bell is on his gap year and won his place after appearing in a mock QT yesterday. Ed Miliband, freshly elevated to the Cabinet, is also on. As if that wasn't enough, the show is being co-produced by eight students from four winning schools in the Schools Question Time Challenge and they've decided the studio audience should be between 14 and 22.

Charlie BellIt's a delicate thing handing over a large degree of editorial control to a team who aren't even old enough to vote. So far it's going well, although tonight will be the acid test. It's got to be worth it if it proves that we're open to a generation which is often dismissed as apathetic and they can prove they're up to the job.

David Dimbleby (age unknown) is so enthusiastic he suggested on Breakfast this morning (which you can watch by clicking here) that there should be a young version of Question Time every week - maybe on BBC3. Perhaps Davina McCall, who's also on tonight's panel, might be interested in presenting it.

UPDATE 6 July: Click here to watch Schools Question Time.

FURTHER UPDATE AT 1530, 6 JULY: Charlie Bell and two of the student producers of Schools Queston Time were interviewed by Anita Anand on Radio Five Live after the show (which you can listen to by clicking here).

Controversial views

James Stephenson | 16:37 UK time, Friday, 12 January 2007

I watched the FA Cup game last Saturday when Liverpool fans made their protest against Kelvin MacKenzie. It was certainly one of the best organised and dramatic protests I’d ever seen at a football match and there can't be any doubt about the depth of feeling on the issue. In my view, that doesn't mean that Kelvin MacKenzie should be banned from appearing on television. Not least, because that's one way his views can be challenged by those who disagree with them.

Question Time logoIt’s worth saying it wasn't the original plan for this week's show. A strong line-up - Lord Falconer, George Osborne, Charles Kennedy and Clare Short - had been booked and announced before the show's Christmas break. The fifth panellist - also announced - was David Starkey. The change of plan only happened yesterday - David Starkey had an accident and had to pull out at the last minute. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Clearly this was a major problem. Appearing on Question Time is a daunting prospect at the best of times but with an experienced panel and a few hours notice, the field of candidates willing to take on the challenge is pretty limited, to say the least. In addition, we needed to retain the broad balance of the line-up - with paparazzi coverage of Kate Middleton a likely subject, Kelvin MacKenzie fitted the bill. So that's why he was on.

What about the show itself (watch it here)? He was given a pretty rough ride. Clare Short said she'd been contacted by someone who said they'd lost a relative at Hillsborough. David Dimbleby pressed him on which aspect of the original Sun story he still stood by and which he did not. There were calls for him to apologise for his recent comments. Question Time is probably the country's leading forum for the discussion of controversial issues. Viewers may not like the people they see on the programme or the views they express, but if Question Time only had uncontroversial panellists the programme would quickly become irrelevant.

There is clearly a lot of anger towards Kelvin MacKenzie. His appearance gave the audience the chance to judge for themselves whether they agree with him or his many critics.

Final preparations

James Stephenson | 19:58 UK time, Thursday, 21 September 2006

I've been suffering from flashbacks over the last couple of weeks. In the early nineties I produced Question Time and now I find myself back in the scanner - this time watching over the final preparations for the new series.

Question Time logoThe show is made for the BBC by independent producer Mentorn. It's a strange feeling being here as the questions come in from the audience, and not being involved in picking which ones will get asked. That's the job of Ed Havard (the programme editor) with David Dimbleby and the team. I'm here for them to talk to if they run into any problems - oh, and to get picked on without warning by David to ask a question during the late afternoon rehearsal.

Question Time has given the public a chance to grapple with the politicians since it started in 1979. Now we're going to give people the chance to suggest questions in advance via the website.

We're also launching a Question Time vodcast. It's a 20 minute version of the show available for video download via the website. But the real test of the show is whether the audience in the studio gets stuck into the debate and the panellists - Charles Kennedy, Ann Widdecombe, Harriet Harman, Tariq Ali and Sir Christopher Meyer. I'm sure they will.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.