The death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi gave BBC1’s six o’clock news a much increased audience on Thursday night – its biggest since the London riots on 9 August.
The 6pm BBC News bulletin was watched by 5 million viewers on BBC1, giving it a 27% share of the audience at the time.
However, the BBC has come under fire for some of the footage and photographs used in the broadcast – and the later 10pm programme – which graphically showed Gadaffi’s dying moments. Mary Hockaday, head of the BBC multimedia newsroom, defended the use of “undoubtedly shocking and disturbing” images which she said were essential to portray the scale of the “dramatic and gruesome” events of Thursday evening.
Writing on the BBC Editors’ Blog today, Hockaday said: “In the age of mobile phones, footage of the capture of Gaddafi soon started to emerge. We could not always be clear of its origins so it was important to make what checks we could and then be very clear with our audiences what we’d been able to verify and what we hadn’t.
“The other challenge was posed by the nature of the footage itself – very graphic, some of it showing Gaddafi alive but manhandled and bloody and other footage and stills showing his dead and bloodied body. We judged that it was right to use some footage and stills, with warnings about their nature.”
She added: “There were undoubtedly shocking and disturbing images from yesterday. But as a news organisation our role is to report what happened, and that can include shocking and disturbing things.
“We thought carefully about the use of pictures – which incidentally we used more sparingly than many other UK media – and I believe that overall they were editorially justified to convey the nature of yesterday’s dramatic and gruesome events.”