Fran Unsworth, Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC, joins Stewart Purvis CBE in conversation.
Another week, another huge challenge for BBC News, as it strives to navigate a path between its commitment to impartiality, the clear moral cause behind the movement, and covering the protests in all their complexity.
"Our reporting of the protests at the weekend made it quite clear that the day in London ended in some violence. What weight do you give that? It’s down to editorial judgement on the day," explained Fran Unsworth, in conversation with Stewart Purvis for the RTS.
The freelance producer and trainer gave a demonstration of the smartphone’s filming capability at an RTS London event in early November.
“No matter how big the tool, it comes down to the person who is actually using [it],” said Mulcahy. “Storytelling is about where the focus is – and understanding how you shoot.”
The University of Sunderland broadcast journalism student took the prize for a report on Greek unemployment. A year earlier, he won the same award for a piece on a demonstration in Newcastle against US President Donald Trump.
When I ask the BBC’s director of news, Fran Unsworth, if the first year in her new role has lived up to her expectations, she gives a hollow laugh.
“I always knew it was going to be a challenging job, let’s put it like that,” she admits. “But quite how challenging it turned out to be – pretty quickly into it – I possibly hadn’t anticipated.
At roughly the same time the Prime Minister faced three consecutive defeats over Brexit in the House of Commons, across the road in Portcullis House another important discussion was taking place – an RTS All-Party Parliamentary Group debate on “The future of TV journalism in an age of fake news and disinformation”.
Speculation that BBC Two’s Newsnight might be axed was firmly squashed in February, when Sky News head of politics, business and specialist journalism, Esme Wren, was appointed editor of the flagship show.
Doubts about its future had re-emerged last autumn with the introduction of Nick Ferrari and Emma Barnett’s ITV series, After the News, and the announcement that Newsnight editor Ian Katz was leaving for Channel 4 to become its director of programmes.
The BBC’s schedule of programming will run from 25 June to 8 July, and the series will include programmes across BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, as well as BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4 and will celebrate the long history of the NHS as well as examining what the future might hold.
Now 51 she’s wondering if that sort of rootlessness will eventually get tiresome. “It’s part of this life, and that would not suit everyone,” she reflects. “There’s probably a limit to the number of times that you can do it or that you should do it. That said, I keep doing it…”
Landing a major assignment or, as modest journalists would prefer to phrase it, getting your teeth into a powerful story, can sometimes be a mix of good fortune and the result of a sequence of random, unrelated events.
Towards the end of August 2017, my team and I were preparing to head out to Bangladesh to cover floods in the north of the country. It was not particularly unusual – sadly, Bangladesh experiences them every year. The situation was severe but certainly not the worst in its history.