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Over the top?

Amanda Farnsworth | 15:28 UK time, Wednesday, 11 October 2006

So how interested are you in North Korea apparently carrying out a nuclear test? We had a heated debate in our editorial meetings. Did we do too much?

BBC Six O'Clock News logoI'm responsible for the Six O'Clock News, where we did 11-and-a-half minutes. ITN did more than that, partly because they were opening their new Bejing bureau I suspect.

But was this a really significant story you wanted to have explained in depth? Or was it interesting but frankly four or five minutes would have been better? I'd very much like your views.

We have some realtime audience reaction fugures from our website and also from a panel that says overnight what they found most interesting and want to know more about. I'll leave you all to tell me what you think and then blog again giving you that information from the website - let's see if you agree...


  • 1.
  • At 04:48 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Niall Rudd wrote:

You should have illustrated how the North Korean issue is yet another terrible failure, whilst drawing detailed comparisons to Iran, explaining how sanctions prove to be totally useless over and over again and how easy it is to play the super powers off one against the other (rather than suggest that Iran and North Korea have been especially clever to do this).

Sky news did a better job on the uselessness of sanctions. Then you should have focused on what on earth the superpowers could ever do to stop nuclear proliferation. Its as if you were being led by events whilst failing to anticipate their meaning.

  • 2.
  • At 04:56 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Aaron McKenna wrote:

The potential for the worlds last remaining Stalinist nation, with quite an erratic leader, to have tested a nuclear weapon is deserving of the highest notice. This event has the potential to at least upset an entire region on which we depend economically; at worst to incite a war on the Korean peninsula and beyond the Sea of Japan which would kill millions.

Hello Amanda,

This is a very important issue, 11 and a half minutes very necessary.

Thanks for all the information


David-Michael Dunbar (Canada)

  • 4.
  • At 05:35 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • stephen frankling wrote:

I think that it was correct to give this story good coverage.
It was a real story as opposed to ' of interest we hope' type stories on the news - in other words it is news, and news that may have important ripple effects in the future.One of which being how Japan will react, we are told that this nation only has weapons of a defensive nature at present, will we now witness a purchase program of offensive weapons begin to show through, and if so how will this play with Japan's this space.

  • 5.
  • At 05:45 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • George Shaw wrote:

It must be a shock to the BBC to have a real news story for once. No wonder they're not sure how to deal with it.

It would be interesting to know how successful the N.Korean nuclear test has been, though. It's premature to report that they're a new nuclear power if the test didn't work.

  • 6.
  • At 05:47 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Carolyn Salter wrote:

I think the amount of coverage is totally justified. I hope that the BBC will continue to keep us updated with all the developments.

  • 7.
  • At 06:00 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Joey wrote:

I don't think the reports have been over the top one bit. This is a very serious issue and people deserve the right to know exactly what's happening when it happens. Comparing N. Korea's actions to those of Germany's before the start of the second world war is admittedly far fetched, however the principle remains the same; we're giving them a slap on the wrist when in reality something more more needs to be done. N.Korea has a 1,000,000 man army, though they're lacking technologically that's still a considerable force; hence the need for close observation.

  • 8.
  • At 06:22 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Gareth wrote:

It's definitely more interesting and significantly more important than the days of coverage the Blair | Brown shenanigans got - even down to the Cherie comments and beyond.

Given the potential scale is 11 minutes enough? People (including me) don't understand how this could unsettle the region and the world beyond so need to be given the info.

Don't start reeling in the time spent on it, but learn from the mistakes of last month's Blair|Brown coverage please.

  • 9.
  • At 06:23 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

How can it be over covered to report on one of the most dangerous places on earth now that it has become even more dangerous than ever. Japan is on a knife's edge reporting last night that they believed a seismic tremor to be another North Korean atomic test. It turned out to be an earthquake.

Emboldened by lots of threatening words but little action, North Korea's government continues to escalate tensions demanding that the US talk to it mano-a-mano or it will conduct more nuclear tests. One report even said they threatened to launch a missile armed with a live nuclear warhead in the direction of the US.

President Bush made it clear today at his press conference that North Korea armed with nuclear weapons is unacceptable to the US. He said he will give diplomacy every chance to succeed in peacefully removing North Korea's atomic weapons but more than hinted that should this and sanctions fail, use of military force to achieve that objective is a virtual certainty. Given the potential threat these weapons pose in North Korea's hands, this is the only responsible course open to the US. I only hope it isn't too late already to avoid dire consequences here in the US.

  • 10.
  • At 06:23 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

Good of you to ask!

Yes, I think you are absolutely right to give plenty of coverage to N Korea's bomb test. It's hard to imagine a more important topic than something that could, in a worst-case but nonetheless possible scenario, lead to nuclear weapons being used for real. I would have happily kept watching your coverage far beyond 11 and a half minutes.

Most of us don't know too much about N Korea, so I think plenty of background is entirely appropriate here.

So please keep up the good work and give us more real news stories!

  • 11.
  • At 06:36 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Kim Forster wrote:

Well, of course, I'm interested in whether Korea detonated a nuclear weapon, but my first thought wasn't if it constituted a threat to world peace; it was where and what damage was done to the environment, followed by fury that countries are still resorting to a form of warfare that haunted my childhood nightmares. However, we do need to know what's happening. Despite our 21st century complacency over nuclear weapons, they are still a horrific threat to people and to the world. After all, the people of Iraq are still suffering horribly, ostensibly because their leader was supposed to be storing a cache of nuclear warheads. The nuclear issue has not yet left our living nightmares, so it must still be fully reported.

  • 12.
  • At 07:47 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Christopher Hobe Morrison wrote:

Since any sort of war in the Korean peninsula would result in millions of people being killed and unbelievable disruption regionally if not globally, it's hard to see how you could give it too much coverage. Of course you might be more interested in the story which followed, the crisis in prison space in the UK for example. This story might be of more immediate interest to people in the UK, but it's hard to see how it would result in millions of deaths.

We all know that we have heard almost everything said that could be said about the North Korean regime just as we have about the regimes in Burma and Zimbabwe, and nobody seems to have the slightest clue as to what to do about any of them, but it is important that we all keep an eye on this one as it is the most likely to bite us hard, and soon.

chmorrison At

  • 13.
  • At 07:49 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Robin Saltonstall wrote:

I think you've got it about right - the thing we definitely expect and require from the BBC is objective news and relevant background information rather than propaganda - please!

  • 14.
  • At 08:52 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • anon wrote:

Why is the BBC seemingly trying to give ammunition to those who blame Bush for North Korea trying to get nukes with its timeline that only starts after the Axis of Evil speech, and leaving out all of North Korea's attempts since 1989?

  • 15.
  • At 09:12 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Kevin Smith wrote:

Can the hypocrisy be more blatant??? No wonder everybody hates the U.S. We invade and trash Iraq on the false notion that they had WMDs and to avoid their threat but when we find that the N. Koreans 100% surely do have them, and are threatening to use them, we decide on 'diplomacy'. Makes me wanna puke.

  • 16.
  • At 05:39 AM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Bob Duffy wrote:

I welcome the debate but I'm burning with rage at the hipocracy and the terribly biased and subliminal coverage that the masss media give it.

I've been reading books on North Korea for years, my wife is Korean and we know our stuff.

1. Most people seem to think that Jong Il Kim is some kind of nutter (OK, he's not the most loving of leaders, then again who is?) but he has political nous and he's no crazed despot.

2. He's not about to strike anyone with anything and he's certainly no despot when one considers the realities on the ground. Who is threatening DPRK? The US, through continued crippling economic sanctions. They are not the first country to spend on defence while harvests fail either.

3. He's doing this test to get face-to-face with a dissmissive USA that IS threatening him economically and he rightly mistrusts the US, who did after all use his homeland to fight a proxy was against Stalin.

3. The BBC showing so-called anti-test demos in South Korea is crass. The 30 or so protesters are demonstrating against the closure of the sunshine policy - NOT the alleged nuke test! Translate the banners.

4. Pictures of the Taepodong 2, which by the way MAY be able to strike the US Alaskan shore some 3000 miles away if they COULD get it to work, but it helps NONE to show it out of context.

5. North Korea have not and WILL NOT use Nuke WMD, have never invaded anyone and likely never will.

I'm fed up to the back teeth of the inconsistencies, the ignorance and lack of understanding of the Korean issue by the public at large and the coverage graphics serves no purpose other to further isolate this misunderstood nation.

Personally, I know we could and should do more to positively engage North Korea, as have the South and the Chinese. t seems that this is more of the same threatening puppet-UN stance and it's simply folly to continue it.

I emplore you to speak with your editors, inform the nation and put people straight on the issues.

If you need some background, try the book Crisis on the NK Peninsula (O'Hanlon/Mochizuki - McGrawHill) and you'll find excelllent stuff.

Thanks for your time.

  • 17.
  • At 05:47 AM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

I imagine that very many people are fatalistic about this. The possibility of all the world leaders arriving at an agreement and then taking effective action is remote.
Extinction by global warming or atomic Armageddon seems inevitable : perhaps super volcano or matter from space.
There is a good life to be led in the meantime – enjoy!

  • 18.
  • At 06:02 AM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Bob Duffy wrote:


Reports concerning developments in North Korea's nuclear program are routinely absent the fact that it was Donald Rumsfeld , former non-executive director of ABB, that signed off on a $200m contract to sell nuclear reactors to the Stalinist state in November 2000.

It has now been confirmed that the A.Q.Khan network was directly connected to the feasibility of Sunday's test, having, "through his network, transferred to North Korea "nearly two dozen" P-1 centrifuges, and the more sophisticated P-11 centrifuges," according to the London Independent.

It was at the behest of the Bush administration that investigations into Khan Research Laboratories, the Pakistani agency in charge of the bomb project, were thwarted.

And from our beloved gumshoe reporter Greg Palast, "According to both sources and documents obtained by the BBC, the Bush Administration spike of the investigation of Dr. Khan's Lab followed from a wider policy of protecting key Saudi Arabians including the Bin Laden family".

Interesting that this is not given coverage in any of the BBC news reports.

Obviously! people were expecting such a great coverage when they heard the news.
News sounded as if North Korea had used it's test on Humanity, that was not the way of presenting but how could BBC ignore the news?

  • 20.
  • At 09:33 AM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Tip wrote:

I think you're spot on with what you've done - if anything I feel I haven't been given a full enough picture of how scary the whole thing is. That's novel - a plea for more sensationalisation. (It's justified in this case though.)

  • 21.
  • At 09:44 AM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Heron wrote:

After having spent around half a month on veils and half a year on how much Blair and Brown hate each other, I think 11.5 minutes is absolutely necessary on something that is a genuine global threat. In fact, an extra few seconds would have been desirable to bring the timetable back before 9/11 to 1989. No matter how much you'd love to, you can't pin this one on Bush.

It would have been better with pictures.

  • 23.
  • At 12:09 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

Actually you can pin this one on the Bush administration not for NK's desire to have weapons in the first place but for ruining the very real possibility of NK giving up its nuclear ambitions, as recent as a few months ago NK was willing to give up its weapons programs in return for aid, but the idiotic Bush administration (cheeney anyone?) decided instead they would impose new harsh sanctions in a attempt to force NK to give up its abitions and in so doing created the situation we have now.

So yes it is Bushes fault if the U.S hadn't been so stupid NK would have no means to make a nuke now.

  • 24.
  • At 12:59 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • June Gibson wrote:

J Westerman (No.17) has got it about right. Leaders of whatever hue will go their merry way. Egotists and control freaks, the lot of them, else they would not have got to the top in politics. It is good to know news but let's not get too scared of one threat whilst others lurk largely unheralded, ones closer to home perhaps. The media, often seemingly acting as one, homes in on the threat-of-the-week with previously reported threats quite forgotten. What's next week's one?

  • 25.
  • At 01:06 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • John Wallace wrote:

Why the need to compare the length of your story with other broadcasters?

Please don't follow the herd - the ITV news is appallingly tabloid. The BBC should lead the way with strong, intelligent news coverage.

  • 26.
  • At 01:10 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Neil wrote:

I would have expected more than 11.5 minutes, particularly when there were no other 'big' stories that day. Any country joining the 'nuclear club' is a big deal. When it's one of the most unbalanced, dictatorial and dangerous countries in the world, it's a huge issue that justified the amount of time spent on coverage. More detail on the reactions of North Korea's neighbours would have been nice.

And as for "ITN did more than that, partly because they were opening their new Bejing bureau I suspect." ... ooh, get you.

I think it's a hugely important story and you were absolutely right to give it so much coverage. I'm more puzzled about why it's disappeared from the news already?

  • 28.
  • At 02:14 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • katy wrote:

Yes please, as much information as is available - this is a very important issue, and the only way we as the audience can tell the difference between 'overhyped international macho blustering' and 'seriously scary nuclear threat' is with as much coverage as possible from as many reputable news sources as possible.

  • 29.
  • At 06:29 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

The "blame everything on the US" crowd has had a hard time with this one. The US has been remarkably passive allowing China and South Korea to take the lead. When the US talked and dealt directly with North Korea, NK lied and didn't keep its part of the bargain continuing its nuclear weapons program secretly. The US can hardly have been said to have made any threatening moves at NK, its 28,000 trops in South Korea hardly capbable of an adequate defense let alone an invasion. And while the US could have bombed NK back into the stone age at any time during the last 50 years, it never once suggested it contemplated anything of the sort. The only reaction the US has had was to urge the Security Council to impose sanctions which were always no stronger than China agreed to. The US imposed its own sanctions after the missile test last summer but that has hardly had much impact. So what was the US's policy failure in dealing with North Korea to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them? The answer is obvious, deferring its policy to China which never learned the lesson of history from the Munich agreement between Hitler and Chamberlain in 1938 and showing complete lack of resolve. The threat could have been stopped cold in its tracks at anytime in the last 50 unilaterally bombing NK back into the stone age at the first indication of its unconditionally agressive policy. Now the threat is greater than ever with no sign of abating short of military conflict. It's a lesson we have to learn again.

  • 30.
  • At 01:50 AM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Elena Cinque wrote:

At 05:39 AM on 12 Oct 2006,
Bob Duffy wrote:
"... burning with rage at the hipocracy ..."

-- Rational thinking in this stage of mood is obviously too hard.

"I've been reading books on North Korea for years, my wife is Korean and we know our stuff."
--really, do you??

"... Jong Il Kim is..//.. he's no crazed despot."

-- You are right, Jong Il Kim is a highly calculating despot!


  • 31.
  • At 02:05 AM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Saeed Vahid wrote:

Making such a big fuss about N Korea & Iran by western mass media sounds like hypocrisy to me. I wouldn't expect it from the BBC, if it claims to be different. If it is outragous to have a nuclear bomb, then why the US and UK don't get rid of theirs? Why Israel is being ignored and no fuss about them? Is it good for 'you' and bad for 'us'? The BBC should not repeat White House's line. The Daily Show in the US was more critical on the coverage.

  • 32.
  • At 03:54 AM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Derek Barker wrote:

Interesting,"you bet"by far the biggest political move of the new millennium.A declaration of check mate,which has exposed America's foreign policy as hearsay,its a bit like "hey we've the bomb what are you going to do about it?" and of course Iran will be watching very closely.So what will it mean? who know's,at a guess another cold war that may last another 50 years.I think what is important is dialogue and a better understanding of the problems that Korea has.

I beleive that in all fairness if the UK and the USA are aloud Nuclear Facilities then so should every other country in the world. I dont like the idea but that would make it fair. Why dont we talk to the North Koreans and improve our relations, over time and with difficulty yes!! If we try to be their friend we wont have to worry about them. I have put this very simply and black and white but i hope you all understand where i am coming from. This situation is alot more complicated than i have described i know!

Bob Duffy - Thank you for that. It's these level-headed contributions from perspectives that the Beeb, even with all it's staff, can't always access that makes these blogs so interesting and valuable.

Amanda - any chance of a weekly 'best of the blogs' slot in the programme itself to broaden the perspective?

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