BBC viewers hit out at coverage about ‘Christmas shortages’
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BBC News and other major news organisations have been blasted and accused of fuelling panic buying for the Christmas period. On Wednesday’s News at Six, it was reported that the lack of HGV drivers could have a “knock-on effect” for people buying over Christmas. However, viewers of the show were angered by the poor choice of words, forcing them into sending in a complaint video.
Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed reported: “A fortnight ago, we discussed the charge made by many of you that the BBC and other news media had created queues at the petrol pumps by excessive reporting of fuel shortages.
“An accusation rejected on this programme by the BBC’s Deputy Director of News Jonathan Monroe, now a similar criticism has been made such a this on Wednesday’s News at Six.”
A clip was then shown of Wednesday’s News at Six, with presenter Sophie Raworth speaking about the shortage of HGV drivers, once again using the phrase “don’t panic buy”.
She began: “Don’t panic buy, but do plan ahead for Christmas, that is the message to shoppers from a global shipping boss who has warned that a shortage of HGV drivers is having a knock-on effect on ports around the UK.
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“Felixstowe is the biggest, it has 50,000 containers waiting to be collected, and ships are having to wait up to 10 days to unload.”
Furious at the choice in wording, viewers contacted the BBC about this and similar coverage elsewhere, with two sending in recorded videos for the BBC.
Julie Nash explained: “Once again, the BBC is reporting of shortages, specifically this time that we’re going to be short of stuff for Christmas.
“You’re repeating this over and over every day this week, have you learnt nothing from the fuel shortage situation you created by over-reporting on a little localised temporary disruption?”
Viewer Terry Miles also complained: “You started your Wednesday 6pm News bulletin about the container hold-ups at Felixstowe with the words don’t panic buy.
“Now we all know how well that worked when you used those words through the recent fuel shortages, so either the BBC News is incredibly naïve, or it’s being really irresponsible.”
Joining Samira on the show, BBC One news bulletin editor Paul Royal discussed their reasoning behind reporting on the Christmas “crisis.”
“First of all, just to reassure viewers that we do take a lot of care and pay a lot of attention to what we put in our programmes, and we make judgements about what we believe is newsworthy.
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“We had a series of quite significant figures from the shipping industry and also from the retail industry who were beginning to say things about the situation regarding the movement of goods.
“Those words aren’t our words, they’re attributed to those who say them, of course, we make a judgement of whether we think they’re newsworthy, and in this case, we thought they were,” he explained.
Samira went on to ask: “It’s fair to assume there are likely to be more supply chain news stories in the coming weeks, so does the BBC need to rethink how you cover them and if you might be contributing to panic?”
“I think we’ve seen from what’s gone on at the international monetary fund in Washington in the United States this week, the shortages,” Paul said.
“The supply chain issue is a global issue and a global problem, and I don’t think BBC News or other major news organisations can ignore that.
“As our economics editor said, the plumbing of the world economy isn’t quite working at the moment.
“What we have to do is report responsibly, statements that are made, and put them in the appropriate context.
“But at the same time, for example, on Wednesday, we reported very clearly what the government was saying, which was to carry on as normal,” he ended.
BBC Breakfast airs everyday from 6am on BBC One.
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