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BBC’s Madeleine McCann coverage indefensible

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Warning: This post was published more than 9 years ago.

I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!

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Peter Horrocks has written an interesting piece on his BBC blog defending the way the organisation has told the story of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance. Unfortunately, his defence makes little sense. Some selected extracts…

Often we’re not able to give viewers any new information and that’s one of the things I spend a lot of time talking to my journalists about, to focus on facts … I know that many other TV and radio networks have been absolutely extraordinary, always talking about it in terms of sympathy and their feelings

I am incomplete agreement with Mr Horrocks here: Reportage of the facts, not of feelings, is exactly where BBC News should be focussed in this instance.

Questions have been raised over why we used a helicopter to cover the McCanns’ journey home from East Midlands airport.

An understandable question: Coverage of a car driving from one place to another has apparently little news value, and adds few new ‘facts’. So why did the BBC cover it?

The McCanns’ return was an important emotional moment in this story, and something which we felt we needed to cover for continuous news.

Eh? The BBC, which Mr Horrocks says focuses entirely on facts, and indeed is better than its rivals because of its emotional detachment from the story, felt the need to give continuous coverage to a car journey because it was an “emotional moment in this story”.

I sense a gap in the logic.

This 1,210th post was filed under: Media, News and Comment.






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Comments and responses

Comment from hampshire terrier


by hampshire terrier

Comment posted at 13:41 on 11th September 2007.

I absolutely agree with your sentiment. I have found the vast majority of the case coverage disgusting and blinkered.

We have seen people who know none of the parties involved claiming the police are framing the McCanns, we have seen forensic experts denouncing evidence that has not even been seen by them and we have seen a wave of sympathy for suspected killers in what would be one of the most sinister tales of our time should any guilt be proven.

For ‘impartial’ BBC reports to be constructed in this way is upsetting, let’s have some objectivity!! You would think they could learn from their mistakes in coverage of the Iraq war yet it is still tabloid-style journalism on a state-funded platform.


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BBC’s Madeleine McCann coverage indefensible


Comment from Mike P


by Mike P

Comment posted at 08:51 on 12th September 2007.

I personally believe that they are as guilty as a man found with his finger in his dog’s ass who then denies owning a dog


Comment from garth


by garth

Comment posted at 12:11 on 12th September 2007.

here here, I agree that this slack coverage is pretty symptomatic of the low quality of journalism about today (aside from bloggers of course)


Comment from Matthew


by Matthew

Comment posted at 14:21 on 12th September 2007.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)


by sjhoward

Comment posted at 17:59 on 26th September 2007.

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way about coverage of the story – there does seem to be some consensus. Perhaps at some point the BBC will learn that in their quest to become ‘accessible’ they’ve gone too far, and reign the journalists back in a bit.


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