BBC Accused of Selective Editing

During Tuesday’s edition of Newsnight, hosted by Gavin Esler, one of the studio interviewees accused the BBC of selective editing.
The prgramme can be viewed online via the BBC iPlayer (available until 16th August).  In a debate about why young people have joined the riots in London, student Yohanes Scarlett said:

First of all, I would like to say, earlier, during your newsclip here, you had a recording of a gentleman with a bandana across his face and sunglasses on, and I would like to point out right now right from the beginning that the BBC have cut out his original statement.  I was there.  He gave an original statement which he wanted the people to hear. It has been cut out, this is a misrepresentation.

Scarlett’s speech begins at about 15 mins 35 seconds on the iPlayer recording.  The clip he referred to is at 7 mins 23 seconds.
Chairing the discussion, Gavin Esler immediately asked Yohanes Scarlett what the chap with the bandana said, but Scarlett said he couldn’t remember it by heart and was reluctant to paraphrase.  He went to to say that the BBC should play the full clip.  “Perhaps we will” replied Esler.

@Magic_Torch: @robertsharp59 @BBCNewsnight Just because they were accused it doesn’t mean it was true #justsaying

There is probably a simple reason why the interview was cut.  Reporters have a strict time slot and the subject Liz MacKean was reporting on was very broad.  However, it was an edit which a Newsnight interviewee – someone credible enough to be invited into the studio to talk specifically about the concerns of urban youths – thought was an unwarranted.

@Eastmad: @robertsharp59 @GavinEsler agreed – selective editing of people who you know don’t have much of a voice is egregious

Youths without a voice causing violence; youths causing violence because they have no polical voice.  This context is important.  This is not simply a case of a politician complaining about selective editing (which actually happens very rarely). Politicians have ample opportunity to clarify and expand upon what they say to broadcast journalists, and they are trained to talk in soundbites anyway.  This is not true of the underclass, the submerged.
So fairly or unfairly, the BBC’s reporting has been called into question.  If rebutting this criticism was in any way difficult, then maybe it would be appropriate for the BBC to shrug off Yohanes Scarlett’s comment, and the news cycle would move on.  But in the age of YouTube and iPlayer, there is really no excuse for uploading Liz MacKean’s entire interview with the masked youth.  It only takes a few minutes, and will give those who want it a deeper insight in the psyche of those causing chaos on our streets.
Of course, there are legitimate concerns about giving crimminals a platform, but in the case of the Newsnight package, I think that ship sailed when the anonymous looter was invited to give an interview in the first place.  And it was only last week that I outlined my view on whether to censor the words of criminals: we are best served when the ideas of wrongdoers are openly discussed and rebutted.  And it is in the BBC’s best interests to prove to their critics, over and over again if necessary, what responsible reporting looks like.

Update 12th August 2011

I’ve just received this response via e-mail from Newsnight’s Deputy Editor, Liz Gibbons:

With reference to your tweets about why we didn’t put the full interview and statement of the man who claimed to have some involvement with rioting on Newsnight on Tuesday night – it is standard televisual journalistic practice to choose clips from interviews in filmed pieces, rather than run interviews in full. This individual asked to make a statement to camera, but also agreed to do an interview in which our reporter was able to ask him some robust questions about why he thought it was justifiable to loot. I am sure you understand that it would be odd for the BBC to allow a statement from someone justifying criminal behaviour to be aired unchallenged, without us asking the individual some robust questions which the public would expect us to ask. We gave this individual no undertaking or promise of any kind that we would run his interview in full or that we would air his statement at all.
I have spoken to the reporter about the content of the statement that the individual made to camera and I am content that there was nothing he said in that pre-prepared statement that was not reflected in the subsequent interview exchange that was aired on the programme. Nor did he claim to represent any group, or organisation, or offer any insight beyond that which was reflected in the interview about why people were committing acts of violent disorder and criminality. You may have noted that Yohannes Scarlett who appeared in the studio, and was present when this interview was filmed, couldn’t actually recall what this individual even said in his pre-prepared statement.
I hope that allays your concerns.


One Reply to “BBC Accused of Selective Editing”

  1. I was quite shocked to see how little Yahanes Scarlet was listened to, given that he seemed very balanced in his presentation and came accross as an intelligent and clear headed person. He was talking about the need for those with no representation to be heard, and the whole newsnight session demonstrated perfectly how people with “establishment” view points are unable to understand the words and concepts outside their mental blinkering.
    This is something to keep track of. Many of us now feel completely cut off from how Society is functioning, and if there are no ways to express how one feels, no ways to change things so that we can feel included, and be both listened to and heard, then there will inevitably be more social disorder. The rioter’s acts were labeled “criminal”, and its an easy label to use when no-one wants to think or listen to the said “criminals”. By demonising the rioters, we make them “others”, “enemies”, easy to “eliminate”. However, they said themselves that they have ‘nothing to lose’; not a recipe for social stability then is it?
    How much more enlightening would it be to create a more equal society, where greed was no-longer allowed to flourish? How about, rather than taking people’s housing away for example, everyone in Britain who needed one, was given a house to love and to care for? Radical? Impossible? House ownership, gives roots, creates social stability, and it might even cost less than putting people in prison for years. We cant do it? No, of course not. It wouldn’t fit into our present mental boxes. And it would allow us to engage with our love of repression. Pity. I’ll have to wait for us to evolve a bit before bringing this up again.

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