The BBC’s news editor has defended their lack of coverage of the Telford of grooming gang revelations, insisting the corporation is doing the “right thing” in relation to grooming gangs generally.
On the BBC’s NewsWatch programme, presenter Samira Ahmed also revealed they had received “hundreds” of complaints about a perceived initial reluctance to cover the allegations.
Responding to the BBC’s own Ms. Ahmed, James Stephenson, News Editor of BBC News and Current Affairs, admitted that on Monday, after the story broke over the weekend, they did not feature the story on their front-page, and covered it only briefly in their paper review the day before.
BBC News coverage of the Telford abuse allegations under discussion at 19.45 News Channel, tomorrow at 07.45 on BBC1 or watch on iplayer
— NewsWatch (@newswatchbbc) March 16, 2018
He also argued that because of a “busy news period”, including the Russian spy poisoning and the death of Stephen Hawkins, the story was forced down their agenda.
“So, there was a story on the website on Monday,” Mr. Stephenson said when questioned.
“That was on the England index. There were various developments in the story as the week has gone on. I’m sure you’ve seen and the viewers have seen how the story has developed.
“So, the initial suggestion was that possibly 1,000 victims, and that was based not on hard information, but on an extrapolation based on work with an academic.
“So, we pursued it. And we weighted the story.
“And it’s probably worth saying, to address your point directly, that we’re in the middle of this huge spy drama and scandal, the poisoning scandal in Salisbury, and that’s consumed a huge amount of our airtime, as has the death of Ken Dodd, and then later in the week Stephen Hawking.”
not only is the Telford story not on the BBC news front page, its not mentioned in the England news page and not even on the Shropshire page. bizarre pic.twitter.com/4TeTodcdeH
— Ed West (@edwest) March 12, 2018
Following their lack of initial coverage, a Tory MP accused the BBC of not “standing up for [the] white working class”. And when the BBC started reporting from Telford on Wednesday, they chose to focus on the comments of one officer who claimed reports were “sensationalised”.
Asked about the criticism of the BBC’s coverage of Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs in general, after claims they are politically correct because of the abuser’s background, Mr. Stephenson insisted no “rethink” was needed.
“No, I think we are doing the right thing, and I think we are very determined to get to these terrible and dark and difficult stories, not just this one, but across the whole range,” he said.