Good news call leads to star wars at BBC

AND FINALLY: war broke out yesterday . . . in the BBC newsroom, writes Martin Wroe.

Following Martyn Lewis's claim in this newspaper on Monday that the BBC news is not always good enough - or at least that there is not enough good in it - his fellow newsreaders departed from their usual impeccable standards of impartiality to stick the boot into Mr Lewis.

The Newsnight presenter, Jeremy Paxman, with characteristic ebullience, thanked Mr Lewis for his courage in declaring his view that broadcasters dwelt too much on bad news, but added, with one of his sarcastic sneers, 'It's just a pity it's nonsense'.

'There are places which follow the good news philosophy,' Mr Paxman said in the London Evening Standard. 'The Socialist Republic of Burma for one. The Rangoon daily will happily lead its front page with the news that one of the police state's majors has been sent on a bee-keeping course in Ann Arbour. Perhaps Martyn should apply for the editorship.'

He added: 'Martyn Lewis's objection appears to be that all sorts of good, positive things happen every day and don't get reported. But this seems to me more a reflection of the apparent health of our society.'

The issue was really about emotions and peculiar to television.

John Humphrys said on Wednesday that making judgements on the amount of good or bad news carried becomes 'an exercise in propaganda'.

From Los Angeles, where he has been spreading his message of more good news, Mr Lewis was undaunted at coming under friendly fire but disappointed at being 'misrepresented'.

In London, a spokesman for the BBC could not confirm that a peace process had been set in motion.

The spokesman offered Mr Lewis reassurance by pointing out that the BBC 'covers good news as well as the bad'.