BBC BLOGS - The Editors

No repeats

Zoe Barnes | 10:41 UK time, Friday, 17 August 2007

A striking blonde A-level student ripped open the envelope containing her results, grabbed her best friend and literally leapt around with joy as she saw she had got the grades she needed to read English at university. Then slowly, as the interview continued, her face crumpled as the realisation dawned that she had got an A grade in the wrong subject, and a B in English, which might not be enough to secure her place.

Breakfast logoAs a viewer (and programme editor) I lived the moment with her and sat open-mouthed as she rushed off camera to check it out, leaving our reporter to wrap up the item and hand back.

That was yesterday morning’s edition of BBC Breakfast. A live programme. You can't make it up. And we don't.

So I am wondering about Mark Lawson's source of information for his piece in yesterday's Guardian in which he claims we've recently started to repeat live discussions, where previously we might have run a TAPE of an earlier version.

He is quite simply wrong. We have never run tape repeats of interviews and certainly have never pretended a tape was live. We are not currently obsessed with 'honesty' as he suggests - we have always been obsessed with honesty.

The reason we don’t run tapes is because it looks and feels repeated. Why would we say “here is an interview we did earlier”, when we can ask the guests to stay on, and with a new contributor, discuss the issue again? Something new might emerge, and often does.

Our audience knows they are watching a live show and apart from pre-filmed features and news clips, that is what they get, gaffes and all.

So yes, we repeat things at times on a three and a quarter hour programme, but very different audiences are watching.

As Mark correctly points out, not many people see the show from beginning to end (37 minutes on average at the last count). Sometimes the guest even appears on several BBC platforms consecutively. We think that can offer good value for the licence fee payer, as many different consumers of BBC News benefit from one booking.

If you were watching for longer you might have seen our A-level student interviewed on BBC News 24 later in the morning, when she confirmed that she hadn't got her first choice of university but was hoping she would get her second. As I said, live TV – the same story but it had moved on.

UPDATE 1500: BBC Breakfast presenter Sian Williams has also written a response to Mark Lawson's article here...

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