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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 15:59 GMT
The news value of celebrities
By Roger Mosey
Head of Television News

Is BBC television news becoming too celebrity driven, as some viewers suggest? Not at all, says the platform's news chief, who challenges audiences to show him the evidence.

David Beckham
Beckham's Madrid news was considered news by BBC TV...

Television News is sometimes guilty as charged by people who write to or call the BBC.

But the complaint I find a bit of a mystery is the sporadic one that we feature too many celebrities in TV bulletins.

To which there is a simple question: where?

I confess that I'm not personally a fan of vapid celebrity stories.

But neither are the editors of the One O'Clock, Six O'Clock or Ten O'Clock News; and I'm sure we see more about Jordan the country than Jordan the model on Newsnight.

Rebecca Loos
...but the Rebecca Loos story was shunned

It's not even a relative thing about the way the news agenda has changed over the years.

It's simply inconceivable these days that we'd do the plot of a soap opera as a news item in the way that the shooting of JR Ewing in Dallas occupied bulletin time more than 20 years ago.

Sky and ITV

The overwhelming majority of BBC news output is devoted to world affairs, politics, business and social policy - and the occasional lighter item is more likely to be about the arts than entertainment.

The only examples that have been cited are our coverage of the Beckhams and Michael Jackson.

In reality, we have done very little about the Beckhams' private life: while Sky News and ITV News prattled on happily about Rebecca Loos, we steered clear.

We did cover David Beckham's move to Real Madrid, but only because such a transfer involving the England captain is a rattling good sports story.

We've also devoted less of our airtime than our rivals to Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson
The Michael Jackson trial is a strong news story, according to Mosey

But having protested our virtue, let me be equally clear that Michael Jackson's trial is a legitimate news story and some days it will feature prominently in our running orders.

Peculiar snobbery

The reason is a simple one. Michael Jackson is a globally known figure: one of the most recognisable people of his generation.

If he were an international businessman or a world politician, his case would be interesting and worth reporting; and it's a peculiar bit of snobbery to think that a singer of such fame should be ignored when other professions wouldn't be.

I think our viewers understand this: there have been very few complaints about our coverage of the Jackson trial so far.

And that suggests the balance is about right.

We keep a sense of proportion about celebrities, but sometimes - when the story is strong enough - they have their place in the news as well as in their more natural broadcasting homes.


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