Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

News that suits the viewer From Mr Roger Mosey

Sir: My former colleague Michael Vestey is entitled not to like BBC News 24 (Arts, 1 July); but his arguments are pretty weird and in some cases just wrong.

For a start, the BBC wouldn't `save 50 million a year' by shutting down the channel. News 24 makes a significant contribution to the BBC's newsgathering at home and around the world, which is what is distinctive about News 24 in the marketplace. Mr Vestey says we're doing what Sky News, CNN and now ITN are doing; but BBC News 24 features the best BBC correspondents from Kate Adie to Nicholas Witchell - and we use the BBC's resources to provide more stories and more live reports from a much broader agenda than that of our rivals. This is an investment for the future as an impartial source of news for a British audience in the digital age.

It is worth considering a simple fact. Each week 6,100,000 people tune in to BBC News 24. Some of them are nightworkers who want a News 24 bulletin when it appears on BBC 1 overnight. Some of them have been out when the Nine O'Clock News was on air and enjoy News 24 at ten o'clock or 11 o'clock. Others are interested in the live speeches we broadcast or the news events we cover as they unfold. The one thing they have in common is that they are licence-fee payers who are entitled to a news service from the BBC when it is convenient for them.

Mr Vestey has often been kind in the past about Radio Five Live, which offers that service on the radio and has won numerous awards. He should note that BBC News 24 was recently voted Digital Channel of the Year by the Television and Radio Industries Club.

Roger Mosey Head of Television News, BBC, Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12

From Mr Keith Kyle

Sir: I am sorry that Michael Vestey, whose radio column I normally enjoy, should, in the course of his onslaught on the BBC authorities, have sought to write off News 24. I have always regarded this as Lord Birt's conscience money - the one place in which he tried to put back some of the qualities at one time possessed by BBC mainstream programmes. It is where one can find the prolonged, searching interview (Hard Talk), the intelligent discussion by high-grade commentators (Straight Talk, Dateline London), and the in-depth investigation of foreign affairs (Simpson's World and others), which used to be a feature of public-service broadcasting. Until such time as these kinds of item appear on BBC 1, News 24 is the last channel that should be suppressed.

Keith Kyle London NW3

Censured, not censored From MrAnthony Sampson

Sir: I am glad that R.W. Johnson recalls (`Stand up and be counted', 24 June) my support for his 1977 book How Long Will South Africa Survive?, which showed great understanding of the complex international and economic pressures behind the apartheid government. But since then he has become overimpressed by Zulu nationalism, obsessed with the communist danger, and relentlessly hostile to the African National Congress.

I believe his reporting from South Africa is seriously misleading to foreign readers and potential investors, and taken too seriously by newspapers including the Times and the Daily Telegraph. Can he really believe that white racism `is now quite invisible in South Africa', as he wrote in The Spectator a fortnight ago?

But it is absurd to suggest that I `led the charge' to have him banned from any newspaper. On the contrary, I was suggesting in The Spectator that it was a pity that his articles syndicated from British newspapers were labelled `not for publication in South Africa' - because it would be useful for readers there to see what he was writing abroad.

Anthony Sampson London W2

Suing to survive

From Mr Jack Robertson

Sir: If Mark Steyn is implying that suing for `cultural genocide' is chicanery (`All Canadians are guilty', 24 June), it is chicanery made profitable only by the individual-oriented legal systems which, during colonisation, usurped indigenous laws based on collective tribal well-being. …

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