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tv   BBC World News  PBS  May 28, 2012 5:00am-5:30am EDT

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>> syria is condemned by the u.n. for an outrageous use of force in the town of houla, where more than 100 people died, but russia says it's still up to the syrian says to solve their own problems. >> all the interested parties -- >> italian police investigate a football match fixing scandal and make a number of arrests, including the captain of has yo. the congo is being refueled. i'm geeta guru-murthy. in this program -- the politics of the middle east. we have a special report on israeli demolitions in the west bank.
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>> hello and welcome. condemnation continues after friday's massacre in syria. the international envoy, kofi annan, is visiting syria today. there is no sign of an end to the violence. this footage was recorded today, this morning. it appears to show heavy shelling. unverified reports claim at least 20 people have been killed. in the last few minutes, the british foreign secretary has been speaking in moscow in a press conference. william hague said kofi annan's plan was the only way to proceed diplomatically with the crisis in syria. >> i think russia has an important role to play in that, as we've discussed today. it's not the al eastern active, either the annan plan or the assad regime retaking control of the country.
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the alternatives are the annan plan or increasing chaos in syria and a descent closer and closer to all-out civil war and collapse. so i think we all have to redouble our efforts to try to make sure that the assad regime implements the annan plan. >> russia's foreign minister also says it was important to stick with implementing the kofi annan cease-fire plan. >> the u.k. and russian federation really want to support kofi annan, so that given the respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of syria, it comprised by all the interested parties should take place without any interference. >> sergei lavrov went on to say that he actually had great doubts about those countries who are talking about regime
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change effectively. he doubts that they want to end the violence, and for russia, the change of regime was not the point. the point was to end the violence and the killing of innocent people, obviously condemning happened in houla on friday. but the russians apparently not changing their position at all. our diplomatic correspondent is with me. you are watching this. what did you make of what they had to say? >> well, i thought it was interesting that both britain's foreign secretary, william hague, and sergei lavrov, tried to emphasize the degree to which relations are now closer than they have been for several years. you may think that's a side issue, but in fact in many ways it isn't, because these are two of the five permanent members of the security council, and i think they were both keen to have decides that they are eager to move as closely in step as they can on this issue of syria. having said that, you've highlighted a very real difference between them. william hague, britain's
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foreign secretary, has repeatedly said in the past that really there can be no solution, which leaves president assad in power in syria. sergei lavrov very pointedly today emphasized that a stress on regime change at this particular time would be completely wrong, that the whole focus should be on implementing the kofi annan plan and ending the violence and everything was secondary. so you can see there's a real underlying strategic political tension there. on the other hand, the fact that there has been an agreed presidential statement from the security council backed by russia, as well as those that have always been more hostile to president assad and his continuing rule, emphasizes they recognize the scale and horror of what happened over the past few days and that they want at least in public to be seen acting together, even if their longer term interests are different. >> thanks very much. we're going to take you live to the inquiry.
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tony blair is giving evidence at the inquiry. let's listen in. >> and what is more, that interaction will always involve a certain tensions. the politicians want to get the best story they can across the media and have to hold the politicians to account, so there's an inevitable tension in that relationship. i think if you look back over time, there's nothing wrong, and it would be strange, frankly, if people in the media and senior politicians didn't have that close interaction. what is more, i'd like to make it clear right at the outset if i might that if british journalism is the best in the world, finest in the world. so what i am talking about as wrong is a relationship or intersection that moves from being sensible and inevitable to being what i would say is unhealthy as a result really of
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a situation in which the power that is exercised by certain parts of the media and the use of newspapers particularly as instruments of political power, then create the situation in which that relationship is not merely sensible, but essential, and where i think that relationship can be and sometimes is unhealthy, and that's what i mean by wrong. so inevitable is the close interaction between media and politicians. i think what i found uncomfortable and unhealthy was when you were so acutely aware of the power that was exercised that you then got into a situation where frankly it became not merely sensible and important, but essential and crucial to have that interaction. >> the active is then of a active and healthy relationship, maybe a degree of
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tension, maybe a degree of professional distance, but if that relationship becomes too close, then it may become, to use your word, wrong. is that a fair summary? >> i find sometimes in reading about this that i use the word cozy, and i think that's not the correct relationship or description at all. i think healthy is a better way of putting it. what it means is if you're a power leader and got very powerful media groups and you fall out with one of those groups, the consequence is such that it really means that you are effectively blocked from getting across your message. you then have all the things i outlined that happens as a consequence of that. now, the nature of the relationship in the politicians and media and that closeness you describe is really driveed from that. what happens is not necessarily
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you become particularly close, but the relationship is one in which you feel this pretty intense power and the need to try to deal with that. i'm just being open about that and open about the fact, frankly, that i decided as a political leader, and this is a strategic decision, that i was going to manage that and not confront it. we can get on whether that was right or wrong, but that was the decision i took. >> right or wrong is an interesting question, but much more important, obviously later on we will get on to how it should be fixed. it needs fixing. >> and i've got ideas on that, and i think i'd like also, if i might put something down in writing, but i found when i was going back to reading the evidence, the listings that shifted this, and so i'd like
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to do that in a way. but yes, look, i think as a result of what has happened, this debate has now been permissible, and you have the potential to get a solution, so let's hope we can get one. i'm just being open with you. that was my decision. at some point i thought about it actually, whether you took this on as a major strategic challenge, i decided in the end against it. >> you say you can speak with greater frankness, but you feel you can speak with greater objectivity? >> i'm probably the worst person to say whether i'm being objective or not, really. i mean, i hope so. look, i think what i'm going to try to do is tell you what i think should be done in this situation, but there are obviously people who strongly dispute my ability to be
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objective over it. >> now, in the fourth paragraph on 05572, you say that your argument would be that the unhealthy nature of this relationship is not the part of an individual, but of a culture, the drake of a poison from the culture that's the real challenge. that's on the third page. are we clear that the poison is in the press? >> what i would say is, in certain parts of the media, where the line between use and commentary gets blurred, so those papers that take a particular view on a policy, a party, a person, then that is driven with an aggression, and, frankly, a prejudice that means you cross the line, i think. that's what i think is the problem. and that's why if you like political leaders like myself
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have to be in a position where you're managing these major forces within the media, because if you fail to manage it, then you fall without them, the consequences, i would play later, is harsh, let us say. the path of this is the current state of affairs is the development within our political culture, a and some would say a disposition to be mallable with the truth. -- the mailable with the truth, the consequences of which have been toxic. >> i would say our responsibility is not having confronted this issue. now, i would get my reasons and justification for it. >> i actually do not think that the way this particular part of the media behaves is a response to the way the government has behaved. what i would say -- i would
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actually put that round the other way. the fact that we got a fully professional media operation, operating really properly i think for the first time in the labour party's history was the necessary part of being able to deal with a media that was extremely powerful. >> this is virtually impossible to disentangle cause and effect. if you accept the premise, at least of the purpose of argument, at least in relationship to the labour party, it's had a terrible time in the 1980's, up to 1992 and that election. your strategy may have been a reaction to that. even on that analysis, that reaction created a political culture with, as i said, a degree of cynicism, and you if you don't like the term, a disposition to be malleable with the truth, we can turn it down a bit and say put the best possible gloss on the truth.
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>> it's even possible to dispute this issue, spin, spin from the last labor government. i cannot believe we are the first and only government that has ever wanted to put the best possible gloss on what you're doing. now, i would be surprised if governments haven't done that throughout the ages. that is a different thing to say things that are deliberately untrue or you bully or you harass journalists and so on. now, i read a lot of things that we're supposed to have done. i actually dispute we did those things very, very strongly. my view is this -- i totally understand why there's a kind of symmetry in being able to say the government was spinning, so the media had to react to that. in my view, you take a different one, that's not what happened. the truth is, in 1992, if you
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look at the way that election was covered, by the time i took over the leadership of the labour party, we'd lost four election natural row. we actually never won two elections in our history, the longest we'd ever been in power was six years at one go, so, you know, i went through that in 1992. i remember it. you know, it was etched on my memory. and yes, i was absolutely determined we should not be subject to the same onslaught. >> we'll come back to that. >> we have this in tab 49 of the bundle we prepared, i think in the second file. >> i think i remember it pretty well.
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>> the number of points you make would be obviously as valid now as they were five years ago. on the number at the top of the page in this version, page two of five on the internet. your principal reflection is not about blaming anyone. in the third paragraph, you say we paid a lot of attention in the early days of new labour to courting, persuading the media. so you're careful to use the word courting. you can see there. and then you say in our own defense, you made after 18 years of opposition and at times ferocious ability. it's hard to say any alternative. you run the risk of fueling the trends in communications that i'm about to question. so arguably you're accepting there without attributing cause
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and effect, or at least contributing to the overall cultural problem, are you not? >> yes, i am. you know, i chose my words pretty carefully there about running the risk. i mean, to be honest, i don't actually think that we created this phenomenon. i think we were trying to respond to it. what i do think, you know, to be self-critical about the government in its first stages, as i say, we've been out of power for 18 years. we got into a rhythm, which is very much the rhythm of opposition. so, we were still, as it were, campaigning in the first few months, possibly first year of government. but frankly, after that time, you got into a proper rhythm of government. we have a very strong leader operation. it's true, but i would argue then and now you've really got
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to. by the way, that's want simply a result of the media's doing. the fact is today you've got a 24 hour a day, seven day a week media. i remember my first election campaign in 1997, you could more or less say here's the story of the day. by the time i was fighting my third election campaign, there was a different story in the morning, the noon, and the evening, watching the most recent election campaign here, i'd say the pace is even faster. so there's a quite different rhythm to this today that i think personally my advice to my leader would be you've got to have a very solid media operation. >> the problem may be, at least in part, the consequence of pursuing in government the same
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approach to the media as have been necessary in opposition. and it may not be now to discuss it, but i mention it because you were just talking about that period of transition, but the question then arises whether there hasn't got to be a different approach that works not merely for government, but also for those who aspire to government, because it's very difficult to adjust or maybe difficult to adjust the tempo of how you do the business. >> yes, i think that's the point. i would distinguish, however, because how you do your proper media operation and relations and communication and so on. and this issue to deal with the importance of those key media relationships in instances where you are aware of the fact that support, the difference
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between support and lack of support is so profound in terms of the effect on politics. from the political leader's point of view, that's the thing that you are aware of. this is not true of all parts of the media, by the way. all parts of all media groups, so there was some papers that you could fall out with the editor and the proprietor. you get a personally fair run of things. you wouldn't have a problem with the news part of it, but those parts, and they tend to be very pourful, where you fall out with them, you then get a problem with the whole in the paper, the news and comments. that's when, frankly, those relationships move from being sensible to being crucial in a way that's probably not healthy . >> now the general point you make in this speech, page three
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of five. the third and fourth paragraph. the activity of coping with the media, and then you say literally overwhelmed, talked to people in any walk of life today, and then you list -- people don't speak out about it, because they're afraid to, which chimes with what lord mannedleson said july 2011, we were cowed. is it as high as that? >> i think you feel the power being directed to that view. the way i would put this, though, is as follows. i studied careful what will peter said about this, and it becomes a question of priority. my view is this -- i took a
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strategic decision. this was not an issue that i was going to take on. the way priority comes into this is as follows. i was trying to do all the things that i believed in for the country, for the labour party, and so on. so as i say, we never won two full terms before. i wanted us to become a government able to compete on equal terms. you know, when i came to office, we had only a handful of inner city schools with decent results. you know, we had rising crime. there are all sorts of things we managed to do in government, bring the list down, increasing the number of schools, and so on, with good results, and all of that is very positive. we had a minimum wage, human rights. there was a whole set of things we wanted to do. now, my view, rightly or wrongly, was that if in those
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circumstances i had said, i've decided what i'm going to do is take on the media and change the law in relation to the media, my view is -- and i think it's still my view, actually, is that you would have to cleared the decks. this would have been an absolute major confrontation you would have had virtually every part of the media against you doing it, and i felt the price you would pay for that would actually put out a lot of the things i cared more about. i think this is immensely important, i don't, in the end, not believe that this was more important than health service or schools or law and order. now, did i come towards the end of my time thinking, well, this is really important, yes, i did. at that point, frankly, it
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would have been absolutely impossible for me to have taken it on. it's not so much -- i did a lot of things in government that was unpopular, where i had to have a certain courage in standing up to people whether agree with those decisions or not, but not as it were i was afraid of taking them on in that sense, but i knew if i did, you'd have to be very, very clear about this, and that was the debate i had with others within government all the way through. if you take this auto, do not think for a single moment you are not in a long, protrackeded battle that will shut everything else to one side. >> you made the point, but i found in paragraph 11 -- >> tony blair there, the former british prime minister, just starting his session of questioning. and name owee -- and naomi
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grimley watching it with me. i know he was very keen at that time to really tackle what he felt was an unhealthy relationship. he pulled back from it. what's interesting? >> well, he's basically saying that he made a decision not to take on the media culture, because if he had, it would have been clearing the decks of government. he said it would have been a long, pro tracted battle. so he says when he was prime minister, he decided to manage the media rather than actually confront the culture. and what he's talking about is the power of newspapers in particular to, if you didn't necessarily do what they want, to write editorials. >> he's raising something that a lot of people have said recently, can you separate -- will this call for a separation of news and comments after this, so that you have to have unbiased reporting of news, but obviously an editorial and comment and features whenever
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you want, because this is what the labour government felt they were up against. >> that's right. they're looking into whether the murdoches in particular have a kind of stranglehold over policy and whether that was an unhealthy thing. and what we're going to see later today is tony blair questioned about particular policy areas. also about the war in iraq, because notably, all the murdoch papers supported the war in iraq, even though at the time there was actually growing opposition, a big march in london, for example, against it, and tony blair, we know now, actually ran rupert murdoch three times in advance of the actual launch of the war in iraq. that is going to be very very well vanity -- very relevant later. >> stay with us. we're going to bring you business and sport next. i'm geeta guru-murthy. you're watching "bbc world news." much more, of course, on the website. thanks for staying with us.
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>> make sense of international news at >> funding was made possible by the freeman foundation of new york, stowe, vermont, and honolulu. newman's own foundation. and union bank. >> at union bank, our relationship managers work hard to know your business. offering specialized solutions and capital to help you meet your growth objectives. we offer expertise and tailored solutions for small businesses and major corporations. what can we do for you? >> bbc world news was presented by kcet los angeles.
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