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BBC Sport come underfire over their coverage of Newcastle’s controversial takeover

BBC Sport come under fire over their coverage of Newcastle’s controversial takeover amid concerns they underplayed Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues with Magpies legend Alan Shearer singled out for criticism

  • BBC Sport has been criticised over their coverage of Newcastle’s Saudi takeover 
  • It’s thought the human rights issues linked to the new owners were underplayed
  • Club legend and BBC pundit Alan Shearer was singled out for particular criticism
  • But the Beeb gave a robust defence at a DCMS committee meeting on Tuesday
  • John Nicolson MP called Newcastle fans ‘numpties’ for wearing Arabic headgear

BBC Sport have come under fire from the Government over their coverage of Newcastle’s controversial takeover amid concerns the network have underplayed the human rights issues linked to the new owners.

The Beeb offered a robust defence of its output of the Magpies’ Saudi buy-out at Tuesday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee meeting in the face of heavy scrutiny from Whitehall officials.

Club legend and BBC pundit Alan Shearer was singled out for particular criticism during the parliamentary discussion after he spoke positively about the takeover and the doors it could open for his boyhood club.

BBC Sport has been criticised over their coverage of Newcastle’s controversial Saudi takeover 

Club legend and BBC pundit Alan Shearer was singled out for criticism at a DCMS hearing

Club legend and BBC pundit Alan Shearer was singled out for criticism at a DCMS hearing

Newcastle’s takeover has been engulfed in huge controversy with the Saudi arm of the new ownership structure – Public Investment Fund – linked to numerous human rights atrocities.

And at the DCMS meeting, which was attended by BBC Sport director Barbara Slater, there was a major spotlight shone on what has been perceived as the Corporation’s soft approach to addressing the human rights issues connected with the Newcastle takeover.

Asked by Julian Knight MP, who was chairing the discussion, whether Shearer’s take on Newcastle’s new owners was appropriate, Slater responded: ‘Across the BBC, particularly our news colleagues and those in our sports news department, the BBC will absolutely report on issues – including human rights.

‘The BBC does not shy away from telling the full story. I think there is an understanding that Alan Shearer clearly has an extraordinary record with that club – he didn’t shy away from the human rights issues, he acknowledged that.

BBC Sport chief Barbara Slater said the network 'does not shy away from telling the full story'

BBC Sport chief Barbara Slater said the network ‘does not shy away from telling the full story’

‘But he also spoke as a fan of the club and what the potential for more investment would mean for the success of the club. This is a story the BBC tells in the round.’

Later in the meeting, BBC Sport’s coverage was again called into question by John Nicolson MP, who branded Newcastle fans ‘numpties’ for wearing fake Arabic headgear in spite of the question marks over their new owners.

Nicholson, whilst acknowledging the BBC on the whole had reported the issues thoroughly, said the network’s sport coverage had downplayed the relevance of the human rights concerns.

He also insisted that BBC Sport had a moral obligation to focus on such issues.

John Nicolson MP later branded Newcastle fans 'numpties' for wearing fake arabic headgear

John Nicolson MP later branded Newcastle fans ‘numpties’ for wearing fake arabic headgear

In response, Slater added: ‘Those stories were told across the BBC’s output. We will talk about issues within our sports coverage, so we are not blind to some of the issues.

‘However, there is a balance in sports coverage so while there maybe some discussion, programmes like Match of the Day will do what the audience excepts it to do which is to cover all of the action from the day.

‘That doesn’t mean there isn’t any discussion but the priority of that programme. I believe the BBC in the round absolutely tells the full story.

‘There are many controversial issues and our sports coverage is not blind to those issues, they are discussed and they are raised, but not to the same extent as they would in our news output.’

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