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Ways and whys of the BBC

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) did not use the word terrorist to describe the men who attacked Mumbai on 26/11 because it has a policy never to use that word on their international programmes, reports Naomi Canton.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2009 01:36 IST
Naomi Canton

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) did not use the word terrorist to describe the men who attacked Mumbai on 26/11 because it has a policy never to use that word on their international programmes, said Sian Kevill, editorial director of BBC World News, the commercial 24/7 international news TV channel.

Kevill visited HT’s Mumbai office in Mahim on Monday to talk about the BBC’s editorial policies.

She said the word terrorist could only be used on the BBC’s domestic news programmes.

“We never flinch in describing exactly what has been happening and saying people have committed an act of terrorism, but we felt that for our audiences across the world to understand what’s happened, we wanted to report who these people were and where they came from, as for our viewers it is not always apparent,” she said.

She also explained why the BBC had incorrectly reported that six gunmen had been shot at Delhi airport in December, when there had been two sounds mistaken for gunshots.

She said in the case of breaking news, BBC World News viewers wanted to be trusted to make their own judgment and to hear a report even if it was not entirely confirmed and was changed 15 minutes later.

“We apologised for what happened because in the particular circumstances (after the terror attacks) it was not the most sensible decision we could have taken,” she said.

She added the Indian general elections would be “one of the big editorial stories of the year” on BBC World News, a channel broadcast in more than 200 countries.

The BBC was planning a series for one month when journalists would go through India, probably on a train, and cover all the “different currents” in rural areas and metros on the way.

“We will also look at what lessons Africa can learn from India,” she said.