Saturday 7 June 2014

'Newsnight' - 2-6 June

Robert Peston coughed during last night's PM. He was talking to Eddie Mair and coughed the word 'Newsnight'. Is Eddie heading to 'Newsnight' as Paxo's replacement? Or was Pesto just having us on? 


Here's this week's traditional run-through of the stories Newsnight covered, how they framed those stories and who they interviewed. 

As you can see, some meaty subjects were discussed (in time-honoured Newsnight fashion), but there were also plenty of stories that had Ian Katz's paw-prints all over them: social media kerfuffles, women's issues, technology (rather than science) stories, and lots of arty interviews. 

Some people love it, some people hate it. (Most, of course, don't care.)

Monday 2/6
1. Qatar, corruption and the World Cup: "The pressure is growing for the body which runs world football to re-examine the whole process by which the right to stage the World Cup was awarded to a feudal stretch of desert in the Gulf. We talk to one of the people eminent in what used to be called 'the beautiful game' about whether the contest needs to be re-run in the light of allegations of corruption". Interview with Alexandra Wrage, FIFA Independent Governance Committee, 2011-13.
2. King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicates: "This was the moment when the King of Spain proved the value of a monarchy. As he decides to call it a day, how much of Spain's transition to democracy can he take credit for?" Interview with Paul Preston, London School of Economics.
3. U.S. prisoner of the Taliban freed: "The parents of the freed American soldier Bowe Bergdahl have yet to talk to their son. How does a person return to the world after five years incarceration at gunpoint. Ingrid Betancourt, who who held for six years by FARC guerrillas, is with us." Interview with Ingrid Betancourt, Colombian presidential candidate, 2002.
4. What age should women have a baby?: "And so is Kirstie Allsopp, here to defend her advice that young women will be better advised to get their breeding done early." Interview with Kirstie Allsopp, presenter, Location, Location, Location & Holly Baxter, co-founder, Vagenda.
5. London gangs & trust in the police: "There are reckoned to be thousands of young people in gangs in London. When I say 'young', I mean the average age of being a member of one of these gangs on first conviction is 15....London has turned a corner with gang crime' - at least that's the claim Boris Johnson and the Met are trumpeting - but it's an odd form of success when nearly twenty young people were shot or stabbed every week in the capital last year. So are the Met really doing enough to the young men and women caught up in these gangs? And would the gang members really trust them?" Interview with Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Tuesday 3/6
1. Child prostitution at the World Cup: "Tonight, with days to go till the start of the World Cup, we report from Brazil on the grotesque underside to one of the world's greatest sporting occasions. In the shadows of the football stadiums, another side to the Copa Mundial: The children being trafficked for prostitution." 
2. The next EU Commission president: "The bureaucrats of the European Commission generously dispensed unwanted advice to the British government today. They were kind enough to advise on council tax, house building and London property prices. It's time for our betters now to choose its successor to that prince among men, the current President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. There are five and a half candidates for the job - a couple of Greens want it as some kind of job share - but the front-runner is Jean-Claude Juncker, who previously had the glory of being Prime Minister of Luxembourg no less. In  the wake of elections which demonstrated how little enthusiasm much of Europe has for the political elite's project, David Cameron is leading the opposition to Mr Juncker and today there were rumours - denied, natch - that the Germans might be heeding his campaign. We'll see." Interview with Marietje Schaake MEP (Democrats 66, liberal) & Jacob Rees-Mogg MP (Conservative).
3. Pakistani MQM leader arrested in London: "Regular viewers will perhaps recall a couple of Newsnight reports from Owen Bennett-Jones on the activities in Britain of a Pakistani exile who seems to have instilled a rule of fear in the city of Karachi. Finally today the leader of the MQM movement was arrested in London and is being questioned about alleged money-laundering. That set off protests in Karachi where his organisation has terrorised great numbers of people. Such is the organisation's reputation that fear of what it might do almost paralysed the city today. Here's Owen Bennett-Jones with the latest".
4. Violence against women in drama: "Millions of us tune in for this stuff [clips from 'Happy Valley'] week after week. Why do we love it? Specifically, why to women seem to like crime drama that features violence against women? The crime writer Ann Cleeves is here to help us with that". Interview with Ann Cleeves, crime novelist & Jake Kerridge, crime fiction critic, The Daily Telegraph.
5. Tetris: "And remember this? How a 1980s computer game has lived till the ripe old age of 30 and is still gathering new fans."
6. Queen's Speech"There are 337 days left to the date of the next election. Tomorrow we shall discover what the government plans to spend them doing. Famously much of the time of government is spent dealing with events they didn't see. But the Queen's Speech to parliament tomorrow will tell us what the coalition government would like to be doing for whatever time they have left in government. The newspapers have had plenty of suggestions, some of them dressed up as impeccably authoritative leaks. Well, Emily Maitlis has some ideas about what might really happen."
   [closing credits: film from a town in Argentina flooded beneath 10m of saltwater in 1985 but which then reappeared 25 years later].

Wednesday 4/6
1. Government row & Muslim extremism: "The Prime Minister demands to know what exactly has been going on between the Education Secretary and the Home Secretary. At the same time his minions say that efforts to fight Muslim extremism are "coordinated" and "effective". Now 'Newsnight' has been told how, when the Home Office cut the funding for an anti-extremism organisation, Michael Gove's department stepped in to help the organisation out."
Chris Cook: "Some senior civil servants here at the Home Office say that the Department of Education have been running what they call 'a parallel security policy'.
"The chairman of that group is here." Interview with Maajid Nawaz, chairman, Quilliam Foundation & Ibrahim Hewitt, founder, Al Aqsa Primary School.
2. Queen's Speech: "Yeoman of the Guard, military bands, a gilded coach, peers in ermine: It was the State Opening of Parliament again this morning. In her invisible gilded shackles, the Queen recited how the coalition government plans to keep itself occupied until we all get the chance to decide whether we're sick of the sight of them. Here are the highlights. All of them."
3. U.S. prisoner of the Taliban freed: "Whoever has the public relations account for the Taliban played a bit of a blinder today. After getting the United States to abandon its trumpeted refusal to negotiate with terrorists, then to get five of its senior figures released in exchange for one American soldier, it's now released its own video of how the handover happened. In the United States, while there is continuing joy at the family re-unification, there's unease about what has happened - and it seems to be growing." Interview with Charles Glass, journalist and author & Lt Col Tony Shaffer, author 'Operation Dark Heart'".
4. Kevin Spacey"And Kevin Spacey considers his future."
Kevin Spacey: "I'm never going to leave. It's not like I'm going to get on a plane and f*** off" I will always be a part of this country."
Report including interview with Kevin Spacey, artistic director, Old Vic.
5. Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary: "25 years on. The photographer who caught this moment [the man holding up the tanks in Tiananmen Square) tells us the story behind the picture." Report based around interview with Jeff Widener, photojournalist. Interview with Wuer Kaixu, Tiananmen Square protest leader; Dr Keyu Jin, economist; & Martin Jacques, author, 'When China Rules the World'.

Thursday 5/6
1. D-Day commemorations: "Allied leaders prepare to commemorate the D-Day Landings, but they don't all feel like allies any more. Vladimir Putin's foreign policy has drawn more comparisons with 1938 than 1944. Mark Urban is at the spot that seven decades ago was codenamed Gold Beach.
Mark Urban: This was the scene of the biggest amphibious assault in history. Tonight they're celebrating. Tomorrow the world leaders will descend on this plain. 
And how were more than 700 American troops killed while rehearsing for the operation - folk memory the only public record of the horror?" Reports, including interviews with WWII veterans. Then studio interview with Harry Leslie Smith, veteran and author of 'Harry's Last Stand'; Professor Christina von Hodenberg, Queen Mary, University of London; & Professor Vladislav Zubok, London School of Economics.
2. European Central Bank policy: "The European Central Bank has taken drastic action, cut interest rates to record lows to ward off deflation. It's also placed negative lending rates on its overnight depositors in order to tempt banks into lending more. Well, the ECB president Mario Draghi confirmed the rates would 'stay low for longer than previously conceived' but it could take up to a year to be fully felt in the economy."
3. Ebola virus: "The latest figures on the Ebola virus in Guinea, West Africa show 208 people have now died from the outbreak, one of the deadliest for years. The Guinean government has suggested the situation is more under control but the facts don't back that up." Interview with Dr Armand Sprecher, Medecins Sans Frontieres.
4. Terry Gilliam and opera: "Terry Gilliam is let loose on an opera. What could they have been thinking?" 
5. Superheroes for 2014: "And how should a superhero behave in the dark days of 2014? We'll ask one of the world's most successful comic writers, Mark Millar." Interview with Mark Millar, author, 'MPH'.
6. Newark by-election: "We're in Newark as the polls close in the by-election. Could UKIP be celebrating again tomorrow or will the aggressive Tory charm offensive pay off?"

Friday 6/6
1. D-Day Commemorations: "Lest we forget. 70 years on - speeches, songs and silent tears. The veterans of the day that changed the course of the Second World War gather. But how does the act of remembering shape new memories? 
Finton Christopher Donohoe, 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles, 1994:  "A lot of them people talk to the children about the war. Are they doing a good thing or not, because you're encouraging people to join?  
We talk to the former head of the British Army about what today means to him." Interview with General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, 2003-06.
2. Trojan Horse affair/Politics: "All this week the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary have been throwing strops over their joint handling, or mishandling, of accusations of Muslim extremism in some schools in Birmingham. Next week there could be a bit more clarity. Maybe. Chris Cook is here. Chris, what could we expect?"
3. Is Amazon a threat to publishing?: "Is the world's biggest bookseller just an internet monster on a mission to destroy?"
Karen Christensen, Berkshire Publishing: "They decide they want an extra 5% this year. They could decide next year they want another 5%, the next year another 5%, and as far as I can see that is exactly what they intend to do until they destroy the existing publishing industry."
Interview with Sam Jordison, Galley Beggar Press & Caroline Michel, Peters Fraser & Dunlop.
4. Marina Abramovic: "And are you quite ready for this?"
Marina Abramovic: "I'm Marina Abramovic. I'm in Serpentine Gallery. This is my house. I'm doing here 512 hours interaction with the public. And I'm 'Newsnight'."
Report, including interview with Marina Abramovic, artist.
   [closing credits: 1939 version of 'Vera Lynn's We'll meet again' to D-Day images]


As you can see, Newsnight is now a magazine show as much as it is a news programme. Within one edition, for example, you can have features about international attitudes to D-Day, the economic policies of the European Central Bank and the Ebola virus sitting alongside features about comic book superheroes and Monty Python stars producing operas. The guests are suitably various in character too. 

Much of it was interesting, even the Woman's Hour-type stuff. The first such feature had Kirstie Allsopp gently taking the wind out of the sails of a less pragmatic feminist over when it's best to have a baby. The second such feature tried to answer a question that's been puzzling me in recent weeks: Just why do so many women love programmes like 'Happy Valley' - a BBC programme that shows shocking scenes of violence against women? It's puzzled me because several women where I work have been very excited about the series and describing some of the most brutal scenes in graphic detail - far too graphic for me in fact!

Chris Cook's Trojan Horse reports were cautious and kept largely to the Westminster politics angle, but that interview with Maajid Nawaz and Ibrahim Hewitt [transcribed some way down the page] made up for that. 

As for bias, I note that the republicans on Twitter were aghast at Jeremy Paxman's introduction to the 'abdication of the King of Spain' story, as Jeremy asserted the value of monarchy and our own monarchy as being the 'gold standard' of European monarchies. He then interviewed a very sympathetic [and highly interesting] historian about Juan Carlos. Mark Urban's report, however, was fully balanced, giving a little time to the republican side in Spain but pointing to polls showing that monarchists are still in the majority there. Also, the Bowe Bergdahl story was handled fairly, with the anti-Bergdahl side getting an airing and criticism of the Obama administration not being swept under the carpet. The 'EU president' coverage was fine too. It began with a string of remarkably undemocratic-sounding comments from Mr Juncker that must have sunk his credibility with British audiences [if they'd been watching]. 

Well, that's how I see it.

1 comment:

  1. Eddie Mair for Newsnight? I hope so. PM has become more and more dominated by this man with a young boy's attitude to innovation.

    Let's hope Caroline Quinn become his replacement.


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