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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Ten defends Jackson coverage
Kevin Bakhurst
Ten editor Kevin Bakhurst got a 15-minute extension to the bulletin
More than 400 people contacted the BBC to complain about excessive coverage of the Michael Jackson verdict on the Ten O'Clock News on Monday.

The bulletin editor Kevin Bakhurst explains the rationale behind the decision to devote around 25 minutes to the story.

Firstly, I would like to say that it was a particularly difficult story to cover as it unfolded, as we knew the verdict was imminent - but that was the full extent of our knowledge.

The news editor in the gallery had to work on the assumption that it could come any moment after ten o'clock as Michael Jackson was back in court and the jury had also gone back into the courtroom.

As it was, it took nearly 15 minutes to deliver the verdict. The time we spent on the story was to a large extent determined by this delay.

The length of time we ended up devoting was also mitigated by the fact that the programme was allowed to overrun by 15 minutes.

We were also fortunate that it was - in news terms - otherwise a fairly quiet day. We were stilll able to cover the other main stories of the day at some length.

Michael Jackson leaves court
Michael Jackson as he left court

Michael Jackson's trial has aroused huge public interest across the world and raised some interesting issues along the way: the way stardom influences juries; the ability of juries to judge what is beyond reasonable doubt despite huge pressures; the question of whether Jackson could ever have a fair trial; the role of the media in uncovering possible wrong-doing; the human story of Jackson who has been a world-recognized figure for the best part of 40 years and so on.

In the end, I would argue that if there is a story of such high-level of interest or importance that is happening in our time - as this one was - then we should cover it properly.

This doesn't happen very often and obviously we set the threshold for covering breaking news much higher than the 24-hour news channels.

In this case, nearly eight million people watched the programme to see the verdict which compares with our usual audience of around five million. That was 36 percent of everyone watching television at that time.

The news value of celebrities
09 Mar 05 |  Notes


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