BBC BLOGS - The Editors

Extreme World

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Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 08:53 UK time, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Inspiration can come from unlikely places. I was recently reviewing a report from one of the BBC’s best journalists, Lyse Doucet in Afghanistan. In a remote and hostile location, she told the story of an expectant mother and the desperate attempts by pitifully resourced medical staff to save her unborn child. “This,” she said without exaggeration, “is the worst place in the world to give birth.” It was an intensely moving piece and it got me thinking: if parts of Afghanistan are the worst place in the world to have a child, where is the best? And where is my family’s experience on that scale?

Extreme World branding

 

This was the starting point for a new initiative at BBC World Service, BBC World News and the BBC News website: Extreme World. It's not a season of programmes, but a themed approach to some editorial content, using the idea of extremes as a way of seeing the world and understanding our place in it. What is life like in the hottest place on earth and, conversely, the coldest? What about issues such as crime and corruption?

The more we explored issues in this way, the more interesting it became - and sometimes surprising. When researching death and dying, for example, some of our perceptions were given interesting new contexts. Dying in a developed country, for example, might give you access to better medical care, but hospitals, hospices and care homes can leave people remote from their loved ones and sometimes completely alone. Poorer countries may have a lack of medical facilities, but the role of the community and family in a remote village in sub-Saharan Africa make a solitary death far less likely.

A theme allows us to play to the different strengths of radio, television and online and to ensure they complement each other. A listener might hear a piece of on-the-scene reporting on the World Service followed by an invitation to go online and explore the data around the story - particularly how their own country, which may well not be at the extremes, fits into the global picture.

The label is a vital part of the process. We hope that regular users of our services pick up the baggage of the season over time and make links they would otherwise have been invisible. We hope that it will offer a fresh way of looking at subjects which might otherwise get lost in the blizzard of 21st-Century media.

Extreme World promises to be an exciting and intriguing collection of content that will continue to take shape over the coming months, providing our reporters with fresh angles and perspectives and offering audiences a range and depth of compelling reports on TV, on radio and online.

Craig Oliver is the controller of English at BBC Global News.

The BBC's Election 2010 programme

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Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:37 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Every general election is special. There's something extraordinary about tens of millions of people coming together and deciding who should run our country.

However, some general elections go beyond the extraordinary and become truly historic.

I wasn't quite 10, but I'll never forget when Margaret Thatcher stood on the doorstep of Number 10 and said "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony." Similarly, Tony Blair saying "A new dawn has broken, has it not?" was clearly going to be a historical moment.

Whatever the result, this year's election will bring a sea change. Will David Cameron become the first Conservative prime minister for 13 years? Will Nick Clegg break the mould of UK politics? Or will Gordon Brown defy the polls and secure an unprecedented fourth consecutive Labour victory?

The opening titles of our Election 2010 programme, we hope, recognise this sense of history. The programme begins at 2155 BST on 6 May on BBC One, the BBC News Channel, BBC HD and of course online and you can see a preview of the titles below.

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The idea came from looking and listening back over the many election nights the BBC has covered. As election editor, I have often made a date with BBC Parliament - which has shown many past elections in the past year - and found myself drawn into the intrigue and excitement of a particular night.

1974 BBC election coverageI realised that if you ever want to get a sense of the country at a specific time, you could do a lot worse than watch the BBC election results programme. February 1974 is a particular favourite - not just because it helped with my understanding of the last time we had a hung Parliament, but also because it reveals the UK as such a different country.

A full ashtray can be seen on the desk at the beginning of the night; some of the men have hairstyles that could have been in a science-fiction film; the presentation team has no women and for any woman standing for Parliament, the graphics helpfully add a "Mrs" or "Miss" in brackets after her surname.

The only black face to be seen on the programme is a man in Trafalgar Square being interviewed by Desmond Wilcox, who seems to assume he mustn't be used to democracy - the interviewee politely points out that he has lived in the country for some time.

1979 BBC election coverage

1979 is equally interesting. The country seems a colder, greyer place than 1974 - and many of the reporters speak as though they have a plum in their mouth. I wonder what the BBC election editor in 2046 will make of the country presented in Election 2010.

election1979.jpgI am sure they will see a fantastic team, headed by David Dimbleby presenting his eighth general election. Nick Robinson will give us the sharpest analysis; Emily Maitlis and Jeremy Vine will bring clarity with exceptional graphics and Fiona Bruce will keep us up to date with regular news bulletins.

We'll be on air just before the polls close at 2200 BST, when we'll release the results of our exit poll. Most importantly, we'll bring you all the results as they happen - with our reporters at many more seats across the UK than any other broadcaster.

Our colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their own programmes - with the BBC UK programme on BBC Two in those areas. Radio 4 and 5 live have been
working closely with us, sharing expertise and resources, and they will have their own results services. We've also worked extremely closely with our colleagues online, so watching us with your laptop or mobile open on the Live Event page and explainers should be a great experience.

The last three elections were extremely important - but during each campaign, the polls pointed to only one outcome. As I write this, no-one is certain what will happen this time. Pollsters and political analysts are as bemused as they are excited, saying they've never seen anything like this in their lifetimes.

6 and 7 May 2010 look to be days that historians will write about for generations. I hope you take the opportunity to grab the best front-row seat with the BBC as history is made.

Craig Oliver is deputy head, BBC newsroom.

Tools of the trade

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Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 16:42 UK time, Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Yesterday's Italian earthquake in which at least 207 people died was by any measure a tragedy, and one which demanded a response which was quick and fully conveyed the scale of the destruction.

BBC News at Ten logoNaturally when something like that happens all the traditional techniques of gathering the news swing into action, including - but not limited to - sending people to the affected area.

Our Rome correspondent Duncan Kennedy arrived on the scene early, and covered the big picture in L'Aquila - but we also wanted to ensure teams travelling from outside Italy could help give the full picture on such an important story.

The logistics of travel to Italy during Holy Week and the fact that many of the roads were closed meant that Europe correspondent Clive Myrie and his team were arriving in the late afternoon.

The Six and Ten O'Clock News production team wanted to ensure we could find key angles on the story as quickly as possible.

They chased leads in a variety of ways - perhaps the most interesting was the use of Twitter and Facebook to identify the worst-hit areas.

One woman on Twitter wrote that a village called Onna had been devastated, with many victims. We contacted people in the area using various social networking sites and more traditional techniques. They helped us confirm the story - and directed us to its centre.

Clive had a limited amount of time on the ground - but it is unlikely he would have been able to do the strong work he did across the BBC without us using every tool at our disposal to bring this story of human tragedy to the public.

Craig Oliver is editor of BBC News At Six and BBC News At Ten.

The Battle of the Tens: One year on

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 16:57 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A year ago today ITV relaunched News at Ten. It was a big moment in the TV News industry - could a once dominant brand return to its glory days? Would BBC News at Ten lose its position as Britain's most-watched news programme?

BBC News at Ten logoI can't pretend I wasn't concerned. An audience analyst sent me a note a week before the big day saying the programmes would split the available news audience - meaning the BBC would lose one-and-a-half million viewers.

There was an added frisson for me - I had worked at ITN for much of my career, and had been a proud member of the ITV News at Ten team before it was axed. I wrote in this blog at the time saying that we may lose out initially, but that I was confident a year later that we would still be the market leader.

So was I right?

On 15 January last year I waited nervously for the overnight viewing figures to drop into my inbox. I was surprised to see that despite all the hoopla surrounding the return of Sir Trevor, the BBC had the most viewing figures, winning by more than a million viewers.

Over the year we have never been overtaken. In fact I am pleased to say that BBC News at Ten has actually slightly increased its audience in the past year to 4.9 million (following an increase of 250,000 the previous year). ITV has averaged around 2.3 million.

I'm also glad to say that our audience is not purely driven by "inheritance" (that is, people who have been watching the programme before the news who don't change channel) - we often have up to two million people joining BBC One at 10 O'Clock.

In the past year the BBC News at Six has increased its audience by 200,000. What's encouraging is that in a world of ever-increasing channels and fracturing audiences, television news programmes are fighting fit, and can attract new viewers.

ITV News at Ten has been a very sharp programme which continues to keep us on our toes. The competition is a great thing, and long may it continue.

Craig Oliver is editor of BBC News At Six and BBC News At Ten.

Grim decisions

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 13:13 UK time, Thursday, 3 July 2008

Yesterday a man drove a bulldozer through a street in Jerusalem with the aim of killing a number of Israeli Jews.

The incident happened near the BBC's bureau and our correspondent immediately ran to the scene. He caught on camera the man being shot dead.

The scene on Jaffa Road after the bulldozer knocked down a busThere have been a number of complaints from viewers about us showing on television the moment of death. I fully understand the concerns, but this is why I took the decision to show it.

After some discussion with colleagues I decided that on the Six O'Clock News we should freeze the images just before the man was shot - letting only the sound of the incident run on. I took the view that the images were too disturbing to show to an early evening audience because, pre-watershed, children would be watching.

I took a different view at Ten - deciding to run the pictures in full with a clear warning that the audience was about to see images of a man being shot dead. This was not an easy decision - we never want to shock for the sake of it, or to sensationalise the news.

However, equally we don't want to sanitise the news for what is a mature and thoughtful audience. It's also important to think about what the audience actually saw - the shot was not close-up, the action was slightly obscured because it was happening behind the bulldozer's windscreen, the men's faces were not visible, and no blood was seen.

The scene was disturbing, and it was a fine call, but I believe it is important and illuminating very occasionally to see the reality of violence.

The story also raised another difficult question: would it have gained quite so much coverage if it had not been caught on camera?

The answer is probably not - but we should not necessarily ignore the opportunity to show people what goes on when we are provided with it. We should however remind people that this is not the only violence, and set it in the context of other deaths - both Palestinian and Israeli - which we did last night.

Turn on, log on, join in

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:26 UK time, Wednesday, 30 April 2008

There's always a lot of chat about the brave new world where TV and the web are converging - but how much is it happening in reality?

With my hat on as editor of BBC Election programmes I can point to a very real example this Thursday night/Friday morning: the BBC Election Night programme.

It's become increasingly clear that the web has something extra to offer on election night. An elaborate network of opinion formers, activists and analysts collide online producing fact, rumour, and mood not found anywhere else. While guarded politicians offer the official line on radio and TV ("let's just wait and see" or "what you say is a disaster is really a triumph") the web provides the unvarnished truth about what the parties are really thinking.

Emily MaitlisThat's why we're harnessing these strengths as never before on Election Night. David Dimbleby and Nick Robinson will be in the studio with some of Britain's top politicians bringing authority and analysis to proceedings as the BBC has always done; but a new addition is Emily Maitlis who'll be sifting the chatter online with the help of some of the UK's most committed political bloggers; Iain Dale, Luke Akehurst and Alix Mortimer.

They'll be using their contacts to provide us with immediate reaction from the parties to the night's results. Our website colleagues will be providing a special webpage with the best of each of their blogs - all hosted by Ms Maitlis at "Emily's Election".

That's alongside the normal comprehensive online offering which includes a map of all the results; the chance to find out what happens where you've voted; and at-a-glance look at how the night develops.

This year's local elections promise to be the most politically significant for years. They'll also see a step change in how we use TV and online to cover the story. So put on a pot of strong coffee, turn on, log on, and join in.

BBC Election coverage:
•BBC One, 2335 BST
•BBC Radio 4 Midnight to 0300 BST with Jim Naughtie and Carolyn Quinn
•Radio 5 Live 2200 to 0500 BST with Richard Bacon and Dotun Adebayo
•and BBC London 94.9 on Friday from 1500 to 2200 BST
•On the web at bbc.co.uk/elections

Something of a star

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 10:12 UK time, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Tonight marks the end of an era for BBC News.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoEvan Davis is leaving his post as economics editor - and going on a year-long attachment to Radio 4 as a presenter of the Today programme. It's a great move for him - but we're feeling more than a little sad on the Ten O'Clock News.

I could try to sum up why we'll miss him - but someone has already done it perfectly. Ipsos Mori were looking for someone who personifies how they want to be seen - they hit on Evan and this is how they described him:

Evan Davis"Fun, quirky, lively, outspoken but apolitical, approachable, explains the complex simply (eg Evanomics); uses technology (his blogging); commonly cited and sought out for opinion. Seems passionate and interested in what he’s doing. Not just a corporate clone or hack."

They could also have written "self-deprecating". When I first joined BBC News a couple of years ago, Evan dropped by to give me an idea of what I could expect from him and his presenting style - he was laughing hard when he said The Sun's Garry Bushell had seen one of his early TV appearances and described him as "a cross between Gollum and a needy vicar".

So how did he go from being bullied by TV critics to being one of the most respected people in journalism? For me it's because Evan took the road less travelled. Some journalists can be showy and hyperbolic - in trying to get people interested in what they have to say, they can oversell their stories. Evan has always been utterly clear that economics is rarely an area of blacks and whites, but varying shades of grey - a world where things tend to happen in increments over a long cycle, not easily matching the hourly demands of modern broadcast news.

I once told him a literary anecdote about Samuel Taylor Coleridge not being impressed by William Wordsworth's poem Daffodils - Coleridge's point was that if you are going to get that excited about some daffodils, what are you going to say when it really matters? Evan agreed that he would have been very much on Coleridge's side. It's that unwillingness to shout loud about everything that made Evan saying a fundamental shift was happening in the global economy last autumn pack a real punch.

Over the last few months Evan has been leading the way in pointing out that the world's economy is slowing down, that slowdown will hurt - but how much will depend on the skill of the world's central banks. As other journalists have struggled to see their way through the complexities of the economy Evan has been clear and right time after time.

Evan has been unique; he's also become something of a star - but most of all he's been a brilliant journalist.

He's followed by Stephanie Flanders - another first class journalist with a style of her own, I'm sure she will be equally successful.

Update, Thursday 20 March: And here's Evan's last piece from the Ten O'Clock News.

8pm summary stats

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 15:02 UK time, Tuesday, 5 February 2008

It's been almost two months since we launched the new short news update on BBC One at 8pm.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoI blogged about the aims of the summary at the time of launch in December - one of the key ones was to reach audiences who don't watch any BBC TV News output during the week.

I thought I'd share with you some of the audience figures we've had back from the first two weeks of the summary. 24.4 million people (or around 43% of the population) watched the summary in that fortnight.

As we thought it's not the sort of bulletin (like the Six or Ten O'Clock News) that viewers would make a special point of watching - it's something they'd catch just before or after EastEnders. Indeed 65% of the audience only watched one summary in a week.

BBC One 8pm summaryFor 1.7 million viewers the 8pm summary was the only BBC TV News they saw in that week with nearly 600,000 in the 16-34 year old bracket (again an audience we know is watching less and less TV news).

We always wanted to make sure that traditional BBC One viewers didn't switch off because of the summary and the figures seem to show that isn't happening.

From our own internal research, viewers like the mix of national and regional news - something our competitors like Five don't do with their updates. They thought the summary was “to the point” and “informative” and it appealed most to younger and more working class audiences.

It's also given us a chance to update BBC One viewers with stories that break between the end of the Six O'Clock News and the Ten O'Clock News - for example the death of Jeremy Beadle last week.

Eight O'Clock summary

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 09:20 UK time, Monday, 10 December 2007

Tonight we're launching a new news summary on BBC One at 8pm (which I first wrote about here back in May). There'll be a UK section presented by Kate Silverton and a local section from each of the BBC Nations and Regions.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThe reason why it was commissioned is simple: audience research revealed that while BBC News remains extremely popular, it could do more to attract younger audiences and what the Americans call "blue collar workers". We discovered many people in these groups found traditional news programmes didn't speak to them and would prefer a different approach.

Before it's even been broadcast, the summary has already attracted a substantial number of column inches - even making the front page of Saturday's Daily Telegraph (though I'm not naïve enough to think this was more about the fine points of BBC editorial policy, than the large image of Kate Silverton).

Kate SilvertonMany of the articles have claimed this is an example of the BBC "dumbing down" - I believe this is wrong for a number of reasons:

1) The summary is an extra offering from BBC News. It won't replace anything - the Six and Ten O'Clock News, News 24 and Newsnight will still continue to offer a broad range of stories, analysis and debate.

2) It won't ignore the key stories of the day, but will tell them in an accessible way.

3) Encouraging as many people as possible to be interested in the news is surely a good thing, and one of the primary reasons why the BBC exists.

Many people rightly have very strong feelings about how BBC News is presented - I hope they will understand that different groups have different needs and tastes, and the BBC should aim to inform as many of them as it can.

Battle of the Tens

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 08:56 UK time, Thursday, 1 November 2007

It's official.

Sir Trevor is back.

ITV yesterday confirmed the story that was leaked to the MediaGuardian last week - it's reviving "News at Ten", with Sir Trevor McDonald back in the slot he was first told to vacate in 1999.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoI stood in the newsroom at ITN when the programme was axed. There were tears from many, angry claims that it was an act of cultural vandalism from others. What hurt was the sense that a programme that had been daring, challenging and innovative for decades appeared to be being cast aside, with little respect.

Years on it's come to be seen as one of the great TV scheduling blunders. The then ITV director of programmes, David Liddiment argued that "News at Ten" was a fixed point in the schedule that was boxing him in - if only he could shift it, he'd open the way for a brave new world where ITV could run films, longer form dramas and experiment with new programmes. He believed viewers would flock to the channel. He was wrong - as Michael Grade has admitted, ITV has never got it right at 22OO since then. Moreover, it allowed BBC News to move into the slot, and have a clearer, simpler schedule earlier in the evening that has been seen as a big success.

Sir Trevor McDonaldThree years after that announcement I stood in the ITV newsroom once again to hear ITN's chief executive, Stewart Purvis say, "A few years ago I stood here to tell you News at Ten was being axed...today I'm here to tell you it's coming back!"

I joined in the cheers at that time - but as every good journalist should know, you should always check the small print. The decision was a fudge between the regulator and ITV. The programme needed only be on at 10pm an average of three times a week. The rest of the time it was shifted round the schedules, and it was quickly dubbed "News at When".

Not so long after, I stood in the ITV newsroom to hear that it had been agreed to move the programme to 2230, five nights a week.

I wasn't in the ITV newsroom this time to hear that News at Ten is coming back - but I imagine there was another cheer. I read it on my BBC Blackberry - I moved to become editor of the Ten O'Clock News 18 months ago.

Given all the comings and goings, it's strange to think I will be in direct competition with a programme I once worked for - and that competition will be fierce. Having worked there, I know ITV News will throw everything at trying to make sure they are seen as top dog in the slot - both journalistically and in the ratings.

The sheer fact that you are reading this blog online may make you one of the people who believe this is an analogue fight in a digital world. That's an understandable position - but I believe it is wrong. Rumours of the death of the terrestrial TV news programme have been wildly exaggerated.

In the last year the BBC's Ten O'Clock News has increased its audience by nearly 300,000. Its reach, the number of people who watch it at least once a week, is up by a million, to over 17 million people. It has the youngest profile of any BBC TV News programme. I'm quoting those statistics because I believe they prove there is still a big appetite for structured news programmes - and the fact that Sir Trevor's return made front page news proves others do too. More to the point, programmes with a deadline, give journalists the thinking time and the opportunity to gather "added value" material that can be sliced and diced for other formats.

So the big question - who will win the Battle of the Tens? One thing's for sure, the early ratings will mean little. In the "News at When" era, the first ITV programme received well over 8 million viewers - that audience soon died back after the initial surge in publicity. Sir Trevor is also a literary man, he will know Thomas Wolfe's assertion that, "You can't go home again." For the BBC it will mean its dominance in the slot is constantly under attack, and at a time when big changes are afoot here at Television Centre (including a move towards what will arguably be the most advanced multimedia newsroom in the world).

I'm under no illusion, ITV is a formidable adversary, but I believe in a year's time the BBC will STILL be the market leader for news at ten.

Gore blimey

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 13:35 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

Climate change has joined a select band of issues where passions are at boiling point.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoA few months ago a Channel Four documentary designed to debunk the "global warming industry" sparked controversy for having significant factual errors.

On Wednesday night's Ten O'Clock News we led the programme with a story about a High Court judge pointing out nine "errors" in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth - a documentary which unashamedly argues that the world faces catastrophe if we do not address the issue. The fact that Al Gore was the hot tip to win the Nobel Peace Prize added to the topicality of the story.

Al GoreToday he won the prize, and - unsurprisingly - it's a controversial choice, not least because the question being asked is: what has climate change got to do with promoting world peace?

The key point is that we live in a world where some documentaries are created to argue a very specific case - the producers marshal the facts to ensure their view is seen in the best light, emphasising certain points, while ignoring or underplaying “inconvenient truths”. This is a dangerous game - if you appear to be on shaky ground, your opponents will ask 'If you got that wrong, surely your entire case is wrong?' The truth is usually far more difficult, and more interesting.

Some may find it hard to believe - and I am already anticipating the response to this blog - BBC News will always try to give a full, impartial picture on climate change. That's why we have done pieces pointing out why the majority of scientists believe it is happening, why some believe it is happening but it may not be as catastrophic as Al Gore makes out, and others pointing to the flaws in Gore's case. It is a story - and a debate - that will run and run. And rightly so.

Conference call

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 15:04 UK time, Wednesday, 3 October 2007

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThis morning I came in to find a few complaints claiming we'd not covered the Conservative Party Conference last night - and that we'd been fooled by Gordon Brown into leading on a statement about British troops in Iraq. Here's a smattering of the points made:

• "When the Labour Party had their conference the BBC chose to spend half of each news programme reporting on it, but tonight, the BBC didn't even mention the Conservative Party Conference, and instead focused on Gordon Brown's visit to Iraq."

• "I pay my Licence Fee to have genuine independent news but to not put the Tory Conference on at all is a disgrace."

• "I think you have been caught up in Gordon Brown's spin."

What's interesting is that we didn't receive any complaints from the Conservative Party - and trust me, they would have been straight on the phone if they believed that we had underplayed their conference yesterday. In fact concerns were raised by Gordon Brown's staff in regular calls - they were concerned that what they believed was a legitimate announcement was being made to look like spin.

Editorial choices can be hard, and it's difficult to please everyone, but I believe the Ten O'Clock News did cover the key story from the Conservative Party conference yesterday - with a chunky package and "live" from our political editor in Blackpool. The piece included stinging criticism from big-hitting Tories of the prime minister's decision to make an announcement on British troops in Iraq right in the middle of the conference, and despite the fact he'd said he'd tell Parliament first. Liam Fox, Sir John Major and David Cameron all focused on the issue. They wanted to get across their point that Gordon Brown is playing politics with our troops. Again, I underline, no one from the Conservative Party complained.

The previous night we presented the Ten O'Clock News from Blackpool. Huw Edwards presented pieces on the new inheritance tax policy, an analysis of whether it would work, and the views of delegates. Half the programme was spent on the Conservatives.

The reality is, we have done just as much on the Conservative conference as we did on Labour and more than we did on the Lib Dems.

For me, the key point about last night's story is: on occasion political parties will be more keen to be seen reacting to an event than to be articulating their own policies. When they want to do that at conference time, it is our duty to report that message to the public in a fair and balanced way. I believe we achieved that last night.

A matter of life and death

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 10:25 UK time, Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The decisions news editors take could result in the deaths of innocent people. That was the premise of "Terror Tapes", the session I took part in at last weekend's Edinburgh Television Festival.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoIt was produced by ITV News' Deborah Turness and the BBC's Sam Taylor and used dry ice, countdown clocks, spotlights and partial stories to create a pressurised atmosphere for the panellists. The scenario was set so that there was a danger of being reckless, but also that we could be overly cautious, not reporting parts of a story that should be told.

The scenario began with a shakily sourced report that a "major incident" was taking place in Wilmslow - there was a large police presence and it was suggested that the local chief constable wanted a news blackout.

After some discussion we were asked if we would report the story - there was a ten second countdown, after which I held up my sign saying "no" - I would want to find out a lot more information, not least about why the authorities wanted a blackout - there could be a very good reason why the right of the public to know could be substantially outweighed by the need to protect people (though I would be making preparations to report the story should I need to).

Others on the panel were prepared to report this information. This obviously complicates things - if information is in the public domain, is it better for the BBC to wait and find out more, or to break a blackout that has been substantially weakened?

In my view I was still not ready to go ahead with the report. Don't get me wrong - I passionately believe that my duty is to report the news unless there is an extremely good reason why not - but it would be irresponsible not to find out why the authorities wanted to stop this story being told.

The situation changed when the police revealed some more information. A statement was released saying that a serving British soldier on leave from Iraq had been kidnapped by a radical, home-grown Islamic group - they asked that we keep his identity secret, but gave no reason why. For me this made the situation more straightforward - we would effectively be in rolling news mode on News 24 covering what would have been one of the major news stories of the year, though we would have respected the request not to identify the soldier.

Things did not stay straightforward for long. A video was delivered to us from the kidnappers - it showed a soldier with a noose round his neck in an orange jumpsuit, surrounded by two balaclava-wearing men pointing guns at him. He said that the men holding him would kill him if the tape was not broadcast within an hour.

The authorities insisted that we should not show the tape because the soldier being held was a senior member of the SAS, who worked on undercover operations in Iraq. There was more discussion and after a ten second countdown we had to decide whether to run the tape or not. This time I held up the "Yes" sign. It seemed absurd to me that the authorities had attempted to impose a blanket ban on running the tape - if the man was killed the fact that his identity needed to be kept a secret for operations would be irrelevant… but here's the really key point: editorial decisions are not always yes or no - they are often compromises. What the kidnappers wanted broadcast was what was being said, not the identity of their captive. I would have run the tape, blurring the soldier's face.

In my view the life of the soldier was protected by the decision, and it was the authorities that were being irresponsible.

You could argue that it would be wrong to broadcast terrorist propaganda, but the truth is people are highly unlikely to be radicalised by exposure to this kind of thing, and if they are, there is plenty of it on the internet.

You could also argue that giving people the oxygen of publicity only encourages them more. There is some truth to that claim - but on balance the real life of this soldier outweighed some hypothetical future situation.

Others on the panel would have run the video without disguising the soldier's identity.

The session climaxed with a live shot of the building where the soldier was being held being stormed. Would we play the pictures live?

This time the audience was asked what they would do - about 70 to 80% said they would run them live. Everyone on the panel except me said they would run them live. I said I would run them, but with a significant delay, allowing me time to stop the broadcast if something horrific happened.

This was perhaps the easiest decision of all - in a situation where almost everyone involved has a gun, you cannot be sure what the outcome will be, you could be presenting your audience with scenes of extreme violence, or something totally unforeseen could happen. It could end well, and our competitors would have the story well before us, but when lives are in danger it is irresponsible to let competitive instinct trump the need to do the right thing.

In the end we were shown a clip of a dead hostage. He'd been killed because the kidnappers had access to television, and had been tipped off by broadcasters other than the BBC that the building was about to be stormed.

Investigating trafficking

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:10 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2007

Last night the Ten O'Clock News exposed a gang selling children within the European Union.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThe organised criminal behind it provided our team with a number of options - all girls under five, one as young as 18 months. He boasted about how he had tried and tested routes into the UK. We told him we had had problems adopting a child in the UK - but he wasn't bothered to find out more, and it is clear that most of the children supplied by gangs end up as domestic slaves or in the sex trade.

It was truly shocking to see a man who saw children as commodities - but it was tragic to see families (often living in grinding poverty) prepared to sell their child. One grandfather wanted us to buy a girl without the mother's knowledge.

We decided to investigate this area for a number of reasons. There were a lot of theories that Madeleine McCann could have been abducted by a gang hoping to sell her, and we'd seen Home Office figures suggesting that at least 330 children were sold to people in the UK between 2005 and 2006 (of course they're just the ones the authorities know about).

What became clear is that selling children is a real business - but its roots are in poverty, and abduction is rare. Families are prepared to sell their children without knowing their destination because they want money. Take a look at Sangita Myska's piece (click here) and you will see people with a standard of living that would normally be associated with the developing world, not the European Union.

There were of course major concerns for the safety of the children we showed last night. I want to assure you that we took that incredibly seriously - working very closely with our editorial policy department to make sure that we did not encourage criminal activity or put children in danger. As soon as we knew who the children were we alerted the authorities.

Three people have been detained and the Bulgarian authorities assure us that they are doing all they can for the children. But the sad reality is that people are willing to supply children to a demanding sex trade.

A new bulletin

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 15:08 UK time, Wednesday, 11 July 2007

You may have read that BBC One has commissioned a short news summary at eight PM every evening. It follows a successful pilot that recently ran in the West Midlands for a five week period (I wrote about that here).

We experimented with a number of formats (there'll be a further announcement shortly about which format was picked):

Natashai) 60 seconds of national news presented by Natasha Kaplinsky.
ii) A 90 second mix of national and regional news - presented by Natasha and with a sequence coming from the West Midlands.
iii) A 60 second summary - presented from the West Midlands.

You can watch an example of one of the bulletins by clicking here.

Viewers who saw the summaries will have noticed that although they clearly came from the BBC News stable, there were some significant differences. They were written in a more "chatty" style, there was a higher instance of domestic news, and entertainment news was regularly included.

So why were we doing this - and why the difference in style?

Audience research revealed that although very strong, BBC News was losing viewers among the young and what the Americans call "blue collar" workers. We decided to find out why this was happening - and what we could do to stop it. We discovered these groups wanted us to be more informal and to include subjects that weren't in more traditional news output. They told us they were interested in the news - but didn't always feel they need to sit through a half-hour programme.

The BBC believes it is important to meet their needs - they are licence payers too.

There will be those who claim we are dumbing down - nothing could be further from the truth. BBC One will continue to carry the One, Six and Ten O'Clock News - all of which will remain unchanged.

Audiences are fracturing and changing as never before - the BBC wants to make sure it meets its public service responsibilities to everyone.

Reporting in complex times

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 10:28 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2007

It used to be so simple.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoA generation ago the concept of impartiality amounted to giving "both sides of the argument". It was assumed that - give or take a little - it was enough to allow someone to state an opinion, someone else to disagree with it - and as long as you gave them roughly equal time, you'd been impartial.

The world of politics confirmed that this was the right approach - there was a clear spectrum, where people tended to fall on the left or the right.

A report this week into the concept of impartiality at the BBC called this the "see-saw" approach, easy to understand and implement - but patently unworkable in today's diverse society. (Read the full report here [PDF].)

Britain is now home to a variety of groups with often strongly diverging opinions on how the world should be run and people should behave - the report used the analogy of a "wagon wheel", something with no fixed centre, and with spokes shooting off in all directions. The idea of a wagon wheel certainly helps remind editors that we live in complex times, and should strive to reflect that in our reporting, but it doesn't help you to remain impartial. So the report has come up with 12 ways to help ensure impartiality.

Those points are extremely useful - and here are the things I remind myself of when I come up against complex issues:

• No one thinks they're biased, so a good editor always challenges his or her own assumptions about a story/ the world.
• You can't always give the full range of views in one report. Fortunately you can return to the big issues of the day time and again.
• Sometimes views that people think are offensive need to be heard
• The BBC is for everyone, but if a certain group's views are not often reflected we won't fully understand the issues (and members of that group will simply switch off).

New news summary

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 13:21 UK time, Friday, 11 May 2007

Viewers in the Birmingham area may have noticed something different at 8pm on BBC One.

It's a short summary of the day's news (which you can click here to watch), presented by Natasha Kaplinsky. We're piloting it in that area, in the hope that it will be commissioned to go national later in the year.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThe summary is above and beyond current BBC output, and came out of a desire to attract people who might not traditionally watch BBC news, particularly younger adults.

Inevitably, some papers have got the wrong end of the stick and claimed it is a case of the BBC "dumbing down". One article even ended with the line "The BBC still intends to continue with the Ten O'Clock News" (which I happen to edit) as if we would ever consider scrapping the programme in favour of a one minute summary!

BBC News is not dumbing down in any way - as anyone who saw yesterday's comprehensive coverage of Tony Blair's departure plans will have seen.

What we do understand, is that the audience is fracturing as never before - different groups have different needs - and the BBC needs to be able to speak to them all. That doesn't mean the summary will be the Daily Star on air, but it does mean that we will explore some areas that are not in our main programmes.

I hope that people who like their news pure and traditional will understand that because we use new programmes to appeal to different groups, does not mean that the Ten O'Clock News will be any less serious.

Hercules safety

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 12:38 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2007

Last night the Ten O'Clock News broadcast a report revealing that the Ministry of Defence has not completed urgent safety work on its fleet of Hercules aircraft - many of which are now flying in Afghanistan and Iraq.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoA few viewers complained that by detailing the fault we were handing crucial information to the enemy. Here's one complaint:

I do not think that the programme should have included a report about how key safety measures have not been introduced on some military aircraft. This is just giving information away to the enemy. This sort of thing should remain secret.

hercules.jpgIt is true that Paul Wood's report did give very detailed information - however, in no way did this endanger the lives of our troops. An official report into the death of 10 British servicemen in Iraq made clear what the problem was - this was widely reported in many media outlets (including the Ten O'Clock News) at the time.

The point of last night's report was to show that despite the fact that changes to Hercules were considered urgent, the process of making the fleet safe has been incredibly slow - not least because the planes can't be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan because they are so vital to operations. Many of the senior military figures we spoke to in the preparation of the report believe it is the failure to make the planes safe, and not the reporting of the issue, that is endangering British troops.

Award-winning camerawork

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 12:09 UK time, Wednesday, 21 February 2007

What makes a good news camera operator?

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoFor me there are four key areas...

1) A good eye. Some have it - some don’t. It’s the ability to spot the telling shot and frame it either beautifully or in a compelling way.
2) Journalistic instinct - filming something to create an arresting narrative.
3) Technical ability - sounds obvious, but frequently they find themselves in some of the most inhospitable conditions on earth. If you can't make the machinery work in those conditions, you’re finished.
4) Bravery - when you’re capturing something important, you are often in dangerous circumstances.

Darren ConwayOne camera operator has all the above and more in spades. He is called Darren Conway (DC to anyone who really knows him) and last night he won the Royal Television Society award for Camera Operator of the Year.

His portfolio included extraordinary images that have been described as "burning themselves onto the viewer's retina." From coming under fire in the Lebanon to living with Pastoralists in the Turkana he captured the defining images of last year. He is an extraordinary camera operator and one of the BBC's greatest assets.

Striking a balance

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 12:05 UK time, Thursday, 25 January 2007

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThere have been concerns that Egyptian police used torture for years - but it has always been hard to prove. Our reporter in the country obtained graphic mobile phone pictures putting it beyond doubt. The most disturbing were pictures of a man naked from the waist down - his legs lifted in the air while he was sodomised with a pole. The camera zoomed in on his face, contorted in agony. Many found his screams the most disturbing aspect. To add to the seriousness of the issue, the British government is considering sending prisoners back to Egypt.

We thought long and hard about what Ian Pannell could show in his report (which you can watch here). We decided to show a few seconds of the man's face, removing the soundtrack of screams, and then freezing the picture as we explained the rest, which was too disturbing to show. There was a warning in the studio introduction, and Ian's commentary made clear what was coming. I believe we struck a balance between the need to show the horror of what happened, with concerns about exposing the audience to graphic images.

New technology

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:06 UK time, Thursday, 4 January 2007

The last week has seen two very different examples of how technology is helping to change not just the delivery of news but its content too.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoHow different would history's view of Saddam's execution have been if we had only seen the official version? The first pictures shocked many - but there was a sense of dignity to the proceedings. The emergence of the mobile phone pictures showed an entirely different story - the proceedings had no dignity at all - a guard was abusing the former dictator, so much so that the whole thing was nearly called off.

Obviously, not that long ago phones were not capable of capturing moving pictures and sound - cheap and available to almost everyone now, this reveals how they help change our view of an historic event.

On a very different point, new media technology is helping us to break stories. When Sir Michael Jackson said that army accommodation was "shaming", the Ten O'Clock News wanted to find out if that was true. A combination of appeals for pictures on our website and army message boards provided us with the evidence to put to the man in charge of accommodation, who admitted it wasn't good enough.

After the story went out we pointed out that people could join the debate on the BBC's Have Your Say website. That provoked hundreds of responses and new information which is in turn driving the story on today.

Grade expectations

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 09:40 UK time, Tuesday, 28 November 2006

9:46pm - Everything's going well, we've got some good stories and we're confident we're going to tell them well. The phone rings - it's the BBC's former business editor, Jeff Randall, and he's got a rather big scoop: Michael Grade is leaving the BBC to become executive chairman of ITV.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoIt's a favour - and he's timed it perfectly, giving us just enough space to make sure we can get it on the TV (giving his Daily Telegraph front page a big plug while we're at it), but not enough to tip off his Fleet Street rivals. The place descends into organised chaos - can we get a second source? Can we get our media analyst, Nick Higham, on set in time? The headlines are swiftly re-written. We stand the story up - there is some colourful language from senior BBC figures. Nick Higham is racing in.

10:03pm Nick tells me he is on the Westway - 10 minutes away. We talk through the implications.

10:13pm Cool as a cucumber, Nick Higham walks on set. He gives a brilliantly judged, totally unflustered, analysis of the story. This wasn't one we wanted to get wrong.

Hidden condition

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 22:00 UK time, Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Lymphatic Filariasis - commonly known as Elephantiasis - blights the lives of 120 million people. The disease causes grotesque deformities. The drugs necessary to eradicate it are available - but doctors don't have the funds to distribute them.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoOur medical correspondent, Fergus Walsh, went to Ghana to investigate the problem. He came back with images of the impact of the disease on the limbs of one patient and the genitals of another.

The first edit of his report contained a series of shots of a Ghanaian man's penis and deformed scrotum. We talked in great detail about whether it was necessary to show these images. Fergus said that one of the reasons that doctors have struggled to get funding to fight the disease is because there is so little publicity about it. He argued that with a warning, and after the watershed, the audience should be allowed to see its real impact.

I felt we could make the same point by showing fewer shots and setting it all in the context of a studio introduction that made clear to the view what they were about to see.

The issue became more complicated when we heard a complaint about a photograph of the same man which had been used to illustrate an article on the disease Fergus had written for an in-house magazine. The person who complained felt the man's genitals would not have been shown if he had been white. This raised the question of whether we were guilty of having double standards without realising it?

Would we have even filmed the shot if it had been a white male? Fergus and I are convinced we would have done - but decided we should move to a compromise position, in which the scrotum was shown, but the penis was blurred. The same information would be conveyed, with a smaller risk of offence.

We could have removed the shots altogether - but on balance, I believe that would have been the wrong decision. I am sure the audiences of the Ten O'Clock News and BBC World, which is also showing the piece, know from our track record that we do not ever seek to humiliate or shock.

Moreover, simply because an image is uncomfortable does not mean it should be ignored, particularly when one of the reasons this curable disease remains such a problem is because doctors can't get the publicity or funding to combat it.

Professor Johnny Gyapong who is in charge of the Lymphatic Filariasis treatment programme in Ghana made the following comment on hearing about our decision to transmit the piece including the image of the deformed scrotum: "Lymphatic Filariasis is largely a 'hidden and neglected disease', but with grave socio-economic effects. It is my view that the media has a role to inform, educate and communicate the appropriate messages relating to the disease, because the condition is manageable. Through this, we could advocate to all concerned for more resources to enhance the global elimination programme."

This was an extremely complex editorial decision, balancing the need to reveal the reality of a disease against fears that by doing so we were crossing a number of lines. Giving the matter a great deal of thought before broadcast, I believe the correct decision was reached.

You can watch the report by clicking here.

Credit where it's due

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:15 UK time, Tuesday, 14 November 2006

You may have noticed a couple of pieces recently where we have not just credited the reporter.

Darren ConwayOn Friday we mentioned Darren Conway for his exceptional camerawork on the nomadic people of Northern Kenya - and last night we credited camera operator Fred Scott and producer Peter Emerson for their work on a piece with British marines fighting in Afghanistan.

Fred Scott, Alastair Leithead and Peter EmersonThe reason for this is that their work was exceptional - in Fred and Peter's case, risking their lives to bring us the story (watch the piece here), and in Darren's case, capturing some extraordinary images, while working in extremely difficult circumstances (watch that piece here).

We will always credit reporters, for the simple reason that people need to know who is broadcasting - but when people behind the scenes do something exceptional we will mention them too.

African image

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 12:16 UK time, Saturday, 11 November 2006

The key criticism of nearly all journalism about Africa is that we only hear about the continent's problems - usually by parachuting into an area for a quick hit. Certainly reports can be templated and cliched - how many times have you seen a TV package begin with a close-up of a crying baby surrounded by flies and finishing with a reporter standing in front of a group of people with whom s/he has failed to engage?

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThe worry that we we sometimes fail to treat Africans as real human beings with many of the same dreams and desires as we have in the West prompted the commissioning of two reports from Fergal Keane and cameraman Darren Conway on the people of Turkana in Northern Kenya. They are nomads - but their lifestyle is threatened by almost constant drought. It would have been easy to focus just on that - but we knew there would also be stories of courage and hope - and felt only by living with them for a week would we be able to fully understand their situation.

Fergal was keen - but we also talked about how what we were doing could be deeply patronising - he could end up looking like a tourist. With help from Oxfam the team set off for Turkana - the combination of stunning pictures and subtle scripting helped us to avoid the major traps.

fergal.jpgThe first piece focused on Kevina Esinyan and her children (you can watch it here). They walked in the blistering heat to the water pump, watched as her children did their homework and heard her hopes and fears. The result was a powerful sense of a remarkable and proud woman living in extraordinary circumstances.

The team spent the last few days with the men fishing on the lake which recedes year by year - (you can watch that piece here). It is equally successful in showing how the Turkana are diversifying rather than depending on foreign aid.

Messy divorce

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:17 UK time, Thursday, 19 October 2006

Should the Ten O'Clock News be reporting the increasingly messy McCartney divorce proceedings?

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThat was the question at yesterday's editorial meetings. Some felt that the reports - including allegations of wife-beating and details of rows over bedpans and breast milk - were not a subject that should trouble the Ten. I can see that argument... Sir Paul McCartney flatly denies every single claim.

So why did we run them in the first half of our programme?

First of all, the Ten isn't a programme that should ignore stories that rightly have a prominent place on the news agenda - nor should it hold its nose and handle them with pinched fingers at arm's length.

That's not to say we will be diving into the latest shenanigans of c-list pop stars or glamour models - but this story is in an entirely different league. Paul McCartney is one of the most famous people on earth - the death of his first wife followed by his finding of love with Heather, moved a lot of people. When it all ends in acrimony, that is simply a good story.

Mills and McCartneyMoreover, the printing of the document in a national newspaper raises many questions about how what could be one of the biggest divorce settlements in British history is being handled. There are also questions about how the media operates - is it being used? Gavin Hewitt's piece on our programme (which you can watch by clicking here) was a serious minded look at the issues raised, with top-level media and legal commentators explaining that the stakes are very high.

The McCartney story was not the most important thing that happened in the world yesterday - but we would have been remiss not to tell it and to explore the implications.

Uncertain toll

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 12:18 UK time, Thursday, 12 October 2006

There is no debate that Iraq is a violent place. What is fiercely contested is the level of that violence.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoYesterday the respected medical journal The Lancet published a paper suggesting that the number of people dying in the country due to violent causes is way in excess of any previous calculation. The report found that more than 600,000 people have died violently since the war in 2003 - that's 500 people a day, or one in 40 of the Iraqi population.

The report was immediately criticised as being unscientific - not least by George W Bush. It was said that extrapolating from a survey of 12,000 people was ridiculous. The people who conducted the survey countered that the work had been peer reviewed, used standard polling techniques and had been accepted as an accurate way to reflect other atrocities, such as the genocide in Rwanda.

Clearly the story was incredibly important - and the stakes were very high. That's why we decided not only to report the figures and the controversy surrounding them, but to get our science correspondent David Shukman to show the working behind them, allowing the audience to make up their own minds about whether it was an acceptable way to reach such a high figure.

Our world affairs editor, John Simpson, reached the following conclusion: "Iraq is such a violent place that it is almost impossible to tell exactly how many people are dying."

As journalists we're naturally most comfortable when we're dealing with facts - but when it's so difficult to know what the facts are, it's vital we say that too.

Ten-nil

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 13:03 UK time, Thursday, 28 September 2006

Does the Ten do enough sport? Should we do all the main football results? Should we show match action come what may?

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoDo we have a duty to do it - given that many sporting rights are now not available to terrestrial TV? Should that squeeze out other news?

These questions have been running through my mind recently. The audience feedback we get when we do sport on the Ten is almost universally negative. At a recent major focus group people seemed to be suggesting that they expected sport on local, but not national, news.

Is this view of the world right - or are sports fans more shy and retiring than we might have thought?

Recently I think we may have underplayed great action in sports matches. We didn't show Xabi Alonso scoring from inside his own half the other night, or an amazing Peter Crouch goal last night. It only takes a few seconds - and even if you are not that interested in football, it is just great pictures.

All sides of the story?

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 12:00 UK time, Thursday, 31 August 2006

Recent audience research came back with one big message: "We want all sides of the story."

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoWe try to challenge the received wisdom on a daily basis - but one of the most interesting examples of this came in our coverage of the decision to make it illegal to view violent porn.

Teacher Jane Longhurst was killed by a man who was was obsessed with violent pornography (he is in the process of appealing against a murder conviction). The sites show torture, murder, gang rape…you get the picture. There's clearly a market for this kind of stuff, and yesterday Jane's mother won a campaign against it.

Our cameraman, correspondent and producer spent the day looking into the story. They discovered that much of the material is faked - though a lot is extremely convincing. As other BBC outlets told the story there was an interesting audience response that challenged the assumption of many that there would be almost universal revulsion.

Rod McKenzie, editor of Radio 1 Newsbeat
, sent round an e-mail letting us know the text messages that some of the station's listeners were sending in. They included:

• This is banning S&M
• extreme net porn is staged and consensual why ban it
• You can't say what violence is in porn, where is the line crossed ? Is a porn star who's not really up for it that day being treated violently?
• what happens between consenting adults shouldn't carry the risk of going to court
• there's nothing wrong with sexual experimentation S&M between consenting adults behind closed doors or online

Denise MahoneyIt was a response we hadn't entirely expected - and Denise Mahoney (right) reflected it in her item on the Ten O'Clock News (watch it here).

So, while it was important to give the police and Mrs Longhurst due weight, it was also important to use our position post-watershed to show as much as we could - within the bounds of taste and decency - and raise the questions: can watching this material really trigger murder? If it can't, should we really ban the stuff that is clearly faked and criminalise those who view it?

On air

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 10:57 UK time, Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Here's an example of the difference between appearance and mundane reality.

dome2.jpgWe got a couple of calls last night questioning the Ten's decision to put a reporter in a helicopter to cover the Dome story. An outrageous use of public money?! Do we sit here thinking up ways to waste your cash?

Not quite... we have a deal whereby we can use a helicopter for an average of seven hours a week. We were planning to get some shots of the Dome from the air (the best place to see it) for all BBC TV and online outlets and we thought why not get a reporter to go up and see it at no extra cost?

The statistics of war

Post categories:

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 15:00 UK time, Monday, 24 July 2006

Here are some stark statistics:

BBC Ten O'Clock News logo• Around 30 to 40 people are killed every day in the current Israel/Lebanon conflict.

• About 100 people are killed every day in the violence in Iraq.

• And 1,200 people are killed every day in the war in the Congo.

All three of these stories are due to appear on tonight's Ten O'Clock News. They will probably run in that order - with the Middle East getting by far the most attention.

Does this say something about how we value human life? It's a fair question and one I worry about.

Here is our reasoning for not reversing the order. The war in the Congo has been going on for decades - it is desperately important (as we will reflect tonight), and a story we will keep returning to. Similarly the Ten has led the way in attempting to show the scale of the violence in Iraq in recent months - we have regularly led the programme with stories from there, and the BBC is the only British broadcaster with a full time commitment to being there.

The Middle East needs more time and space for a variety of reasons:

• The sheer complexity of the situation requires space to help provide context and analysis.

• The current conflict plugs into so many other stories around the world, from what Tony Blair and George W. Bush call the "War on Terror", through to the price of oil, even the situation in Afghanistan.

• Many people fear the consequences of conflict in the Middle East more than anywhere else, and it is our job to help people understand a "scary world".

In short, our judgement is that Middle East is currently the biggest story in the world - by a wide margin - and it has the greatest implications for us all.

Craig Oliver is editor of the Ten O'Clock News

Language barrier

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Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:25 UK time, Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Sometimes there is one question everyone wants to know the answer to.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoYesterday it was: what did Materazzi say to Zidane to make him attack him in such spectacular style?

Neither player was speaking about it, so a more cunning approach was required. We needed a lip reader who could speak Italian - Zidane has played in the country and understands the language.

Our translators at work watching the footageWe asked our team in Rome to come up with the goods. It was a long shot - but it paid off. We found a deaf man who translated what Materazzi said into sign language, and someone who could translate the sign language into English.

I will leave to your imagination what the sign language for "go **** yourself" was... The signs for "I hope your family all die ugly deaths" were a little easier to show.

The result was a genuine scoop - and a lot more accurate than some of the claims in today's papers.

Around the world

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Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 09:33 UK time, Friday, 7 July 2006

I'm relatively new to the BBC - and I'm discovering one of its great joys is the ability to show all sides of a story from around the world:

BBC Ten O'Clock News logo• When North Korea test fired a missile earlier this week - we were able to get the view from South Korea, China, Japan and Washington (watch one of the reports here).

• Our diplomatic correspondent James Robbins had an original, epic and revealing take on how India and China are competing with each other to become the greatest economic power with a series of stories called "The Race to the Top" (watch here, here and here).

• And Fergal Keane showed how violence in one country can have a devastating impact around the world in a moving interview with the mother of a Nigerian killed in the 7/7 bombings (watch here).

The result is fascinating television, and greater understanding of our impact on the world and its impact on us.

C'est La Guerre

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 15:01 UK time, Tuesday, 27 June 2006

Sometimes defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoHome Editor Mark Easton got a great, unexpected scoop - an interview with Charles Clarke, sacked as home secretary last month.

Even better - it was embargoed until 10pm. That meant the Ten O'Clock News would be the first programme to run with it - ahead of a longer version on Newsnight.

You may think that's of little consequence, but we editors care deeply about such things.

What we hadn't factored in was that last night's Ten would follow what was arguably the worst football match of all time: a no-score-bore that went to extra time and then penalties. That meant we ended up on air at 1040pm - well after Newsnight had started.

I wouldn't have minded - but even the penalties were boring. Switzerland didn't even score one.

Newsflash

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:52 UK time, Wednesday, 7 June 2006

The Ten O'Clock News nearly brought new meaning to the word "newsflash" last night.

cassell2200.jpgAndrew Cassell was doing a "live sandwich" - a report on tape that is surrounded by a live top and tail from location. He was outside the bank in Edinburgh's Princes Street where a manager had stolen £21 million.

The live top was a little troubled - viewers will have seen someone attempting to put him off with a red laser light (see picture).

As his tape rolled we could see Andrew on our preview monitors turning to have a discussion with a number of drunks... suddenly a woman was in front of the camera flashing her breasts. We asked Andy if there was any danger of this happening live on air - he assured us he was fine, and he completed his live tail like the true professional, leaving viewers none the wiser.

Body count

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 16:25 UK time, Friday, 2 June 2006

How much should I show?

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoIt's the question every editor faces when confronted by pictures of dead bodies.

There are two powerful, opposing arguments:

1) It is only by showing uncensored picture that people can fully understand the horror of what happened - and if we don't we are in danger of sanitising the story.
2) Does the audience really need to see blood and gore to understand that something terrible has happened?

On Thursday the Ten O'Clock News obtained pictures of an alleged massacre in Iraq. Eyewitnesses claim the 11 victims (including five children, one of whom was a baby) had been murdered by marines. The US military claimed there had been a firefight involving an Al Qaeda terrorist - and that the 11 had died when their house collapsed on top of them.

simpson203_2200.jpgAs important as telling both sides was judging what pictures we could show. They included deeply distressing shots of the dead children with terrible, gaping wounds. We decided to show only two shots of the children - we blurred their faces to avoid showing their shattered skulls. Our sister programme, Newsnight, showed more pictures and decided not to blur any of them.

The next morning senior editors at the BBC had different views on what should have been shown. Some argued we had played too safe, others that Newsnight had gone too far - even though they broadcast later at night and to a different audience.

Having slept on it, my own view is that we should probably have shown a little more and Newsnight should probably have shown a little less... but ultimately there is no right answer.

Graphic action

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 16:45 UK time, Wednesday, 31 May 2006

There's been a steady drip of information about the massacre at Haditha - 24 Iraqis, including a two-year-old girl, allegedly murdered by US Marines.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoIt was clear someone needed to bring together the information. John Simpson and I spent the Bank Holiday sifting the eyewitness evidence. We needed a major centrepiece graphic to explain what happened - and it needed to be definitive.

To make it happen I wrote a properly sourced script - it came out at over a minute long. John laid down an audio guide track because it is incredibly difficult to make a long graphic fit a piece that is fed from the field. The graphics department started by creating 3D models of the American military vehicles, a taxi, a checkpoint and the three houses where the massacre happened. This took most of the day.

Click here to see the Ten O'Clock News graphics in more detailsThe 3D models were then handed over to another designer whose job it was to put them in context and add graphic text. The process of building the graphic took eleven hours.

I hope it helped the audience visualise and understand the horror of what allegedly happened - you can watch the piece in full by clicking here.

Pick of the day

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 13:26 UK time, Thursday, 18 May 2006

The danger of the the task British troops face in Afghanistan is becoming clearer by the day.

tenoclocknews.gifOn last night's Ten O'clock News last night, Alastair Leithhead raised concerns that Pakistani officials are turning a blind eye to insurgents crossing the border - with the express aim of attacking British soldiers. He went back to the Afghan caves which had been used to store arms, and which had been destroyed by coalition forces in 2002. He found that the same caves are being used by the Taliban and insurgents -
do watch the piece here if you haven't had chance to see it.

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