Since moving to its new base in New Broadcasting House in 2013, the BBC’s domestic TV news service has suffered more than its fair share of technical issues. Indeed, even for those of us who get mildly excited by such things, we’re quite bored of the automated cameras running amok in Studio E now.
However, a technical fault that occurred midway through an edition of the BBC News at Six during the week, inadvertently resulted in the BBC straying from one of its editorial guidelines. Just after the regional headline recap at c. 6.15pm, the programme director cut to the sting and studio wide shot, as usual. However, things then went awry. Sophie Raworth was due to introduce a report by BBC Ireland correspondent Emma Vardy, on the news that the PSNI was willing to offer anonymity for witnesses who came forward with evidence that would lead to the conviction of those responsible for the recent murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry-Londonderry. However, due to a technical fault, Sophie’s introduction was omitted and the report played out without any lead-in.
The name of the city where the murder took place is a sensitive issue for some in Northern Ireland. The city’s population is 72% Catholic, 25.5 Protestant/Other Christian Faiths, 2.5% Other Faiths [2011 Census]. The Catholic population generally refers to the city as ‘Derry’, whilst many in the Protestant community prefer ‘Londonderry’.
The BBC News policy is that the first reference to the city is ‘Londonderry’, and ‘Derry’ thereafter. Other BBC services have been known to refer to the city as ‘Derry-Londonderry’, which has become a popular compromise within Northern Ireland itself. Sophie’s introduction would’ve referred to Londonderry. The report by Emma Vardy consistently referred to Derry. As reported by Newswatch (below), some viewers objected to the lack of reference to Londonderry during the segment. A further technical glitch occurred during the playout of Emma’s report, resulting in Sophie Raworth being put to air whilst adjusting her hair.
This week’s Newswatch also reported on another technical incident earlier in the week, where The Andrew Marr Show failed to appear at the scheduled time last Sunday due to a fault in the studio. The programme then had to decamp to an alternative studio. The show finally went on air, ten minutes late. However, the technical gremlins continued, with Chris Mason finding himself in an awkward spot when the autocue failed a few moments into the start of his news bulletin. He adlibbed much of the first story. But, because he had no hard copy of the script, he thought it better to halt proceedings there and hand back to Mishal Husain (who was standing in for Andrew Marr).
One viewer commented that technical issues are becoming a regular occurrence on BBC News and “it’s starting to look like a bunch of first year students are running things”.