Thank you for contacting us regarding ‘Newsnight’, broadcast on Friday 12 August.
We understand some viewers felt David Starkey's contribution to the discussion on the England riots was inappropriate and racially offensive. We note some viewers also felt Dr Starkey's views were not sufficiently challenged by presenter Emily Maitlis.
Firstly, it is important to stress that Dr Starkey’s views are his alone and not those of ‘Newsnight’ or the BBC. It is part of ‘Newsnight's remit to air and challenge controversial views and we believe his perspective on the riots was robustly challenged during the course of this discussion.
The aim of this, at times heated, ten minute debate was to examine the causes of the recent riots and looting and in many ways it encapsulated different strands of opinion, both ideologically and socio-economically, as to what provoked the violence. Presenter Emily Maitlis directly challenged David Starkey’s views on a number of occasions, asking: ‘Is black culture the cause of the rioting?’ and ultimately ending the discussion by asserting that Dr Starkey was ‘using black and white cultures interchangeably as good and bad’.
Aside from Emily Maitlis’ interjections, guests Owen Jones and Dreda Say Mitchell clearly took exception to David Starkey’s opinions and were given ample time and space to make their disagreements heard. Owen Jones particularly highlighted that many people listening would find the views expressed offensive, and Emily Maitlis provided further context - making it clear that David Cameron had stated that this was not a race issue, and that people taking part in the riots came from a range of ethnic backgrounds.
Although some viewers found David Starkey’s arguments offensive, others agreed with them. It is not ‘Newsnight's’ job to censor the views of our guests; the programme would rather challenge them in a robust way on air, and allow viewers to draw their own conclusions. We believe this discussion was conducted in a fair and professional manner.
Please be assured your concerns were raised with the programme.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.