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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006, 14:00 GMT
This website's on fire


By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor

  • MONDAY 6 FEBRUARY
  • THURSDAY 9 FEBRUARY
  • TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY
  • FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY
  • WEDNESDAY 8 FEBRUARY
  • NEWSNIGHT REVIEW
  • READ YOUR RESPONSES TO THIS COLUMN

    It's been our biggest-ever week on the website, both in terms of the numbers of viewers writing in and those requesting video downloads of the programme.

    Jeremy Paxman chairs the debate Islam and the West

    The hot topic has, of course, been the cartoons row and the ongoing debate about Islam and the West.

    That was the title of our special programme on Monday which attracted a huge response from viewers.

    Many were concerned that we had invited Anjem Choudary of the radical group Al Ghurabaa to appear. His group had been behind the demonstrations which caused so much controversy when placards appeared in London calling for beheadings.

    "I was astounded that the programme chose a guest such as Anjem Choudary to portray the great religion of Islam," said Amer from Watford. "His views are not representative of mainstream Islam."

    The reality, I think, is that the vast majority of Newsnight viewers love the drama and danger of a highly charged live debate
    I thought that was really the point the programme made. Debating - when they could get a word in - with Mr Choudary was an array of more moderate and representative British Muslim opinion.

    Many viewers were impressed in particular with Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative vice-chair, who spoke passionately, and under duress, in favour of the middle ground.

    "It lifted the spirits," wrote Matthew D'Ancona in the Daily Telegraph. Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian thought we "provided a civilised platform on which Muslims could argue with fellow Muslims".

    "We're moving on, matey"

    Some felt the debate got out of hand: "Contrary to some other responses I felt that Jeremy Paxman did a poor job as moderator of this debate," said Bryan White, but others found it thrilling.

    "Monday night's programme was priceless, if only to hear Jeremy Paxman refer to a panellist as 'matey'," thought Chip from the Netherlands.

    As Mr Choudary threatened to disrupt the programme entirely, Jeremy - who knows why? - punctured his bluster by saying "we're moving on, matey".

    We did receive a large number of complaints about the debate - as did the BBC's Newswatch programme before which I was hauled on Friday - but the reality, I think, is that the vast majority of Newsnight viewers love the drama and danger of a highly charged live debate. One and a half million watched Mr Choudary's antics, and I reckon they're well able make up their minds about what they were seeing.

    Are you watching in broadband yet?

    While the numbers on old-fashioned TV were up, so were those of people watching Newsnight via broadband.

    Kenya's flag

    We've only been doing this for a few months, but already thousands are choosing to watch the programme on demand, and this week the figures shot up.

    If you're not doing it yet click here to find out more about what you're missing.

    More than 20,000 people downloaded the video of Monday night's debate and a further 20,000 watched Fergal Keane's film about corruption within the Kenyan government.

    Still small numbers compared with TV proper, but it's growing at an amazing rate, and new developments are happening almost daily.

    This week BBC TWO announced the launch of its new broadband offering, bbc.co.uk/bbctwo, which is a fashionably minimal and rather restful web space (rather than site) where BBC TWO things will happen. Newsnight will be heavily involved in that.

    We'll also be refreshing our own site in the next couple of weeks, with less clutter and easier navigation - and not long after that we'll be offering the best bits of Newsnight each week in a podcast so you'll be able to listen, and eventually watch, us on the train.

    We're moving on, matey.

  • CLICK HERE TO READ PREVIOUS COLUMNS


    YOUR RESPONSES TO THIS COLUMN

    Every programme seems to have a website so it is easy to put the comments down whilst they are still fresh in the mind
    June Gibson
    I am not surprised that the website is on fire! Time was that if one wanted to comment on a programme it was quite a task. I can recall many times trying to write in on some issue or with a question. The switchboard at the BBC treated one badly, like one was an industrial spy, and if one was lucky a room number at the appropriate place was given out. If I got past the usual barrier and sent in a letter, I might be singled out for a reply, or I might not. Nowadays an opinion can be voiced straightaway. And what a host of opinions there are. Every programme seems to have a website so it is easy to put the comments down whilst they are still fresh in the mind. It's all very cathartic apart from anything else, as people think someone is listening even if the politicians are not. I wouldn't miss a Newsnight easily, and the entire programme being available 24 hours after transmission makes it possible to see all, even if I forget to set the VCR. I am a PC novice at a rather late stage in life and think it is wonderful to have all this info on hand. I love the programme, love the theme tune and intro, love Paxo, love it all -except the sofas. Great stuff!
    June Gibson, London

    Just to say podcasts - excellent development. I only ever watch using the web - please continue to improve broadband facilities. Kirsty Walk should be next England Manager.
    David Son, London

    Your coverage of the cartoon issue has been very important to me and your reporting has been nothing short of brilliant
    Sarah
    I thought the Newsnight program on Islam and the West was excellent. I live in an area where a lot of Muslims reside and over the past year I have seen a lot of hostility between Muslims and non Muslims. After watching the programme I realise how the media, and in particular the newspapers, distort things. I can see from what the guests where saying that the main population of Muslims are good people and that extremists are in the minority. There definitely needs to be more interaction between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. I think if we knew more about Islam would be a good thing and could help bring down some of the boundaries. I hope this debate continues peacefully.
    Gary Hodkinson, Manchester

    One of the downsides of moving to Copenhagen two years ago was the loss of Newsnight, although the daily email has been a welcome addition to my day. Your coverage of the cartoon issue has been very important to me and your reporting has been nothing short of brilliant. The humour in Denmark can at times be difficult for me to accept. But I am a foreigner in this country and have avoided involvement in those areas which I think my culture finds unacceptable. I have questioned my own opinions and culturally motivated consideration of what is acceptable and unacceptable. Your coverage of the cartoons has helped me with my rationalisation of the issue. Thank you, Newsnight. And any chance of a podcast service for a lonely Brit sitting in DK?
    Sarah, Copenhagen

    I thought the 'we're moving on, matey' moment was one of Jeremy's best
    Amelia Hoskins
    I found the debate fascinating, very difficult for Jeremy, but keep it up. Here in New Zealand we do not get such great political commentary or even very much international news at all. We are saturated with local stuff. So I enjoy all that the BBC has to offer.
    Jill Jeffs, Orewa, Auckland NZ

    I thought the "we're moving on, matey" moment was one of Jeremy's best. I can't know if you chose the right representatives for the debate, but I would guess you chose moderate and radical opponents to balance the argument. Jeremy did, in fact, let him speak a good deal and, in view of the fact that Choudary had talked over other speakers, Jeremy was kind and good humoured with his "matey" comment. It was interesting to hear the voice of radical Islam.
    Amelia Hoskins, Exeter

    It is one thing to defend the right to allow all to have their say but that right should be forfeit when the right is denied by a person to others
    John Goddard
    Regarding Mr Choudary and those like him who wish to hog the air. Would it not be worth pulling the plug on his microphone? It is one thing to defend the right to allow all to have their say but that right should be forfeit when the right is denied by a person to others. I caught a bit of a programme during the last week about "broadband. Where we live we cannot get broadband yet we still have to pay BTs full rental. Yes, a full week for you and I found I watched much of Newsnight.
    John Goddard, Launceston

    The Muslim debate was amusing and interesting but not quite the drama you make out - I expect you lead a fairly dull life at the BBC
    Bruce Finlaison
    Re the debate about Choudary - I don't know about other people but I watch Newsnight for information, not drama.
    Ricky Lucock, London

    You must have a lot of very excitable viewers. The Muslim debate was amusing and interesting but not quite the drama you make out. I expect you lead a fairly dull life at the BBC.
    Bruce Finlaison, Jersey

    Anjem Choudary was clearly positioned as extreme and non-representative of the wider Muslim community
    Julie
    Anjem Choudary was clearly positioned as extreme and non-representative of the wider Muslim community. I'm in favour of giving such people a noose with which to hang themselves. I was troubled that when Mr Choudary made a comment about not supporting beheading with the proviso "in this country", that Jeremy did not pick up on this statement.
    Julie, London

    I thought the producers totally misread the importance of the subject
    James Wishart
    I am an avid viewer of Newsnight. Having spent many years abroad on various overseas postings in various corners of the globe, and watched numerous different so-called current affairs programmes, I have to admit that Newsnight, in content, quality and presentation is by far second to none. Despite some of the attempted disruption by one of the participants, this debate was excellent! Some may say that JP did not handle it well - I think he did, admirably. Good show - may we have more such debates, please!
    Allan Craig, Nailsworth

    I thought the producers totally misread the importance of the subject. The problem is global: western culture and its relationship with Islam. We could be at a crossroads where we either make efforts to understand the Islamic world view or go down a road which yields and panders to racism. This totally irresponsible attitude is summarised by your editor's parochial and blinkered comment: "but the reality, I think, is that the vast majority of Newsnight viewers love the drama and danger of a highly charged live debate".
    James Wishart, Northampton

    The debate amongst your Muslim guests was excellent - I would have Mr Choudary on as often as possible
    Susie
    Unfortunately, over the years Newsnight and other BBC programmes helped the Muhajiroun and other extremist groups to gain far more publicity than their numbers warranted, while neglecting more mainstream, moderate views. Omar Bakri Mohammed and even Abu Hamza tended at times to be viewed as figures of fun who "made good TV". Now the Corporation has woken up to the need to enable a much wider spectrum of Muslim opinion to have fair air time too. The Newsnight with Anjem Choudary was a priceless piece of television.
    Susie, West London

    The debate amongst your Muslim guests was excellent. I would have Mr Choudary on as often as possible. Whilst some sensitive people may not like what he says he has a right to say it. He is also enlightening the rest of us about the mind-set of those who want to deny free speech and expression under the guise of religion. Please invite him on again and let him put his side of the story. What have we got to lose? I think collectively we have a lot to gain and it may shake the majority of Muslims into deciding that they must act to stop this version of Islam being presented in their name.
    Mike Dunne, Liverpool




  • SEE ALSO:
    Those cartoons - right or wrong?
    03 Feb 06 |  Newsnight Home
    Never say never
    27 Jan 06 |  Newsnight Home
    Interview a statesman, design a set
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    Geeks, Gak and Newsnight
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    Newsnight end of year quiz
    23 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Newsnight on trial
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    Allies on trial
    09 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Difficult decisions and charm offensives
    02 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Broadband - like TV only better
    25 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    What is the point of Jeremy Paxman?
    17 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Could you do better?
    11 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Smears, the Sun and squirrels
    04 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home



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