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Doug C

BBC World News...now in US!

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At last--a real news channel in the US (alas, cable):

AP article

New York Times article

BBC World executives say they're sensing a hunger in the United States for more international news. An evening BBC newscast that is shown on many PBS stations is growing in viewership, and half of the hits to the BBC's news Web site come from the U.S., Hillman said....

"What we're not setting out to do is carve a niche that reflects America back to Americans," Alagiah said. "What we're trying to do is reflect the world back to Americans."

It will be a serious newscast that stresses the BBC's reputation for impartiality, although "sometimes being impartial means working hard and going out and getting the truth," he said.

The broadcast will stand in contrast to American network morning shows, where the balance is tipping more toward entertainment, he said. The BBC also has an advantage over CNN since it has about three times as many journalists stationed outside of the U.S., Hillman said.

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I'm not familiar with ITN, Elen, but I'm definitely one of the BBC's regular web surfers; its coverage of not only world news but also US news is often in-depth and engaging. I've mentioned in other threads that I haven't owned a TV in about 16 years, so I get all of my news via the web and radio; basically a mixture of BBC, CBC, and Pacifica, with a smattering of NPR (even though it annoys me). Between the ads, anchor banter, corporate tilt, sensationalism, and emphasis on "human interest" minutiae, I can't watch most broadcast news here.

Hmm...between this and TCM, I might break down and get a cable subscription yet. ;)

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BBC does have a pretty broad coverage, but it is fairly irritating at times. They are often smug about how "different" they are from Americans, and are more than willing to follow the nanny-state party line on a lot of social issues in the UK.

I am looking forward to having something OTHER than the BBC to watch when we return to the states.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Wow they admit their country has social issues? On TV?

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Alan, have you seen the documentary Control Room about Al Jazeera? It's absolutely fascinating. A lot of Al Jazeera journalists are actually Western-trained, ex-BBC. Given that they're the first news network of their kind over there and have been criticized by several regimes for questioning the status quo, they're a pretty remarkable outfit. I'm looking forward to seeing how they develop.

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Expecting media from that region of the world to get everything "right" would, frankly, be a lot like expecting media in the USSR to be accurate.

Or media in the US! :) Media cost so much too produce professionally that broadcasters inevitably have to placate those in power (the state and/or commercial investors) regardless of the country involved. One of my favorite accuracy sites is FAIR, which basically offers a progressive critique of the mainstream media that is often quite illuminating. (For example, they are quick to remind folks the past couple days of the documented ways in which Zarqawi's importance has long been overemphasized for the "U.S. Home Audience.")

Edited by Doug C

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Wow they admit their country has social issues? On TV?

No, it is far different than that. When you have the BBC constantly "educating" the UK public about the perils of drinking, eating, smoking, and any or all anti-social behavior (of the ASB sort, including but not limited to things like talking about religion in public), it crosses the line from "admitting it has social issues" to being a pipeline of the nanny state. Be thankful that you have more than one network in the States that delivers news. Pick and choose what you want, balance the flaws of one source with the benefits of another. But it is nice to have more than one news station which happens to be intimately involved with the social policy of your government. This is not to say that the BBC doesn't rattle any cages (and that channel 1 and 4 don't produce brilliant docus), but they aren't exactly the bees knees when it comes to "objective reporting." Especially on social issues. I don't find it surprising at all that people who tend to use more "liberal" news sources in the states are applauding the BBC move, UK social policy neatly matches their vision for America. Orwell based "Big Brother" on the BBC, his extremist parody is so laughably true so often that it is scary.

By and large, I only find the BBC to be moderately helpful in their global coverage. I see things online before they pick it up anyway.

Some links (with a grain of salt):

BBC Labour Bias

pro-war BBC?


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Be thankful that you have more than one network in the States that delivers news.

But they're all indebted to corporate sponsors, they're all commercially driven, and they all use the same sources...so the range of perspectives is extremely narrow. Lots of channels but they're all saying the same thing, which is why I prefer to ignore them altogether and get my new through independent or international or activist (including religious) sources. At least then I'm getting a different perspective, and judging from your comments, it sounds like the BBC will certainly offer that.

(I can only judge it on the basis of its radio program, which is far more attentive and in-depth in its global news coverage than NPR or the corporate media here. I can listen to NPR all day but at 10:00 p.m. when the BBC comes on, I start hearing all sorts of stuff that hasn't even been mentioned yet.)

As a total aside: Elen, given your involvement with "A Black Thing" thread, I'm wondering if you're familiar with Tavis Smiley's radio program? Wow, it may be geared to a black audience, but it offers some of the most perceptive and invigorating news coverage I find on the radio. And actually, I think NPR allows him to be more questioning of the status quo specifically because he "speaks to blacks" and not (ostensibly) white, upper/middle class listeners. But I'm white and middle class and I love the show! :)

This is not to say that the BBC doesn't rattle any cages (and that channel 1 and 4 don't produce brilliant docus), but they aren't exactly the bees knees when it comes to "objective reporting."

Of course not, as we keep saying, there really is no such thing.

I don't find it surprising at all that people who tend to use more "liberal" news sources in the states are applauding the BBC move, UK social policy neatly matches their vision for America. Orwell based "Big Brother" on the BBC, his extremist parody is so laughably true so often that it is scary.

Ha, that's painting with quite a broad brush, don't you think?

By and large, I only find the BBC to be moderately helpful in their global coverage. I see things online before they pick it up anyway.

So who do you turn to? I find the BBC (and CBC) online and radio sources to be quite on top of things...at least in comparison to what we get here.

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It may be geared to a black audience, but it offers some of the most perceptive and invigorating news coverage I find on the radio. And actually, I think NPR allows him to be more questioning of the status quo specifically because he "speaks to blacks" and not (ostensibly) white, upper/middle class listeners. But I'm white and middle class and I love the show! :)

Doug and Ellen: Are we talking about the same Tavis Smiley, the guy who blasted NPR as being less inclusive than the Bush administration? The guy who heaped scorn upon the network after they showed him the door?

I thought he was long gone from NPR.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Oooops. I knew I had read something more recently than the story I linked to above. Here's the latest:

Despite his clash with expectations and executives at NPR, he is back on public radio, through NPR's competing program provider Public Radio International. Smiley's new two-hour weekly show, heard Sundays at 2 p.m. on WETA (90.9 FM), continues his effort to push public radio beyond its comfort zone.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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That's interesting, I wasn't aware that PRI and NPR are competitors. I also don't know much about Smiley's career, I've only been impressed with the intelligence and engagement of his show, the questions he asks guests and politicians and the kinds of people (like Cornell West) he invites onto his show.

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So I found this description on the PRI website:

"Public Radio International and National Public Radio (NPR) are the two major public radio networks. Individual public radio stations can be affiliates of PRI and members of NPR, selecting programming offered by each. The phrase 'public radio' is a generic term, while 'Public Radio International' and 'National Public Radio' refer to each individual network."

FWIW, it looks like my two favorite public radio programs, Tavis Smiley and This American Life (not to mention BBC World Service), are both PRI shows. (A Prairie Home Companion is from American Public Media.)

But of course, "public radio" is a misnomer now, given that it's mostly a private enterprise. NPR gets about one to two percent of its operating budget from national funds, the bulk of it is provided by member station fees and corporate underwriting (Clear Channel, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, etc). The member stations survive on listener donations, corporate underwriting, and grants. So it's hardly the kind of LBJ-era, public-funded enterprise it once was. Which is why the news rarely sounds any different than commerical broadcasts.

Edited by Doug C

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NPR has good programming, but if I want an alternative news voice, I tune into my local Pacifica affiliate.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Exactly! Although our local affiliate, KPFK, has pretty uneven programming; some of it is pretty embarrassing (like the people who promote the 9/11 conspiracy videos), but shows like Democracy Now!, Ian Masters' Background Briefing, CounterSpin, and Free Speech Radio News are priceless.

Of course, you and I live in the broadcast range of two of the five stations in the whole country. ;)

Which brings us to webcasting...does anyone here listen to their radio off the internet?

Edited by Doug C

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But they're all indebted to corporate sponsors, they're all commercially driven, and they all use the same sources...so the range of perspectives is extremely narrow.

Granted, but corporate sponsorship is different than the sorts of concerns that drive most EU news broadcasting, the UK included.

Ha, that's painting with quite a broad brush, don't you think?

Not at all. That is why I said it.

So who do you turn to? I find the BBC (and CBC) online and radio sources to be quite on top of things...at least in comparison to what we get here.

For strict "global news" I have Reuters, NYT, Washington Post, The Economist, Chicago Tribune, Wired and some others on my bloglines subscriptions. I surf over to Drudge Report and Fark for all the really important stuff. In the States, I simply had NPR on most of the day.

FWIW, it looks like my two favorite public radio programs, Tavis Smiley and This American Life (not to mention BBC World Service), are both PRI shows. (A Prairie Home Companion is from American Public Media.)

Huh. That is interesting, I guess I would just gloss over that while listening.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Elen, that's a great story--you've got so many of them! I didn't know you worked as a media intern.

Granted, but corporate sponsorship is different than the sorts of concerns that drive most EU news broadcasting, the UK included.

Of course they have different concerns, that's why BBC news will be a welcomed alternative on American airwaves. But as far as having an implicit agenda to push, placate, honor, and avoid in regards to certain stories and issues, they both have their bills to pay.

Not at all. That is why I said it.

Regardless, I myself will refrain from comparing ABC/NBC/CBS to Nazi Germany. ;)

Edited by Doug C

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Of course they have different concerns, that's why BBC news will be a welcomed alternative on American airwaves. But as far as having an implicit agenda to push, placate, honor, and avoid in regards to certain stories and issues, they both have their bills to pay.

Apples and oranges. News agencies in nationalized systems are a whole different ballpark than the commercial concerns you keep citing. I would move to Norway in a heartbeat, but I wouldn't trust two seconds of their national news. The Rolling Stone's song is apropos here: You can't always get what you want...

Regardless, I myself will refrain from comparing ABC/NBC/CBS to Nazi Germany. ;)

I know you are winking, but it isn't that funny to be accused of comparing something to Nazi Germany. I hope I am reading you incorrectly, but are you implying that I have called the BBC Nazis? If so, that is precisely the sort of politicizing smugness that rankles me in the BBC. It is not only a false accusation, but a sadly misguided one.

If you will go back and read what I wrote, I listed several semi-specific faults I see in the BBC and concluded the paragraph with a completely germane, and well known reference to the influence of Orwell's experience with the BBC on his writing of 1984. I fail to see any problem with that. (cf. John Bennet. "Orwell's 1984: Was Orwell Right?" Journal of Historical Review 6:1 [1986])

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Doug C wrote:

: I find the BBC (and CBC) online and radio sources to be quite on top of things...at least in comparison to

: what we get here.

Of course, the CBC is somewhat renowned in Canada for its own biases. I find it interesting that those of us who live in the BBC and CBC homelands take a less-rosy view of those networks than their fans in far-off America. :)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Apples and oranges. News agencies in nationalized systems are a whole different ballpark than the commercial concerns you keep citing.

Oh come on, I do not think you are really this naive. Information monopolies exist within any power structure, and part of being an adult in the world today is identifying those monopolies and finding ways around them. First year political science students will tell you the political spectrum can be conceived as a circle, with both extremes (fascism or communism) essentially meeting in totalitarianism.

I know you are winking, but it isn't that funny to be accused of comparing something to Nazi Germany. I hope I am reading you incorrectly, but are you implying that I have called the BBC Nazis?

Not at all, I'm trying to be good-humored about the way you have used vague but heavy-handed slurs like "nanny state" and Orwell in what I hoped was going to be a serious conversation about information bias and diversity in the media. But I could cite plenty of SF warnings of corporate excess if you'd like, beginning with Pohl and Kornbluth's stunning The Space Merchants (1952); Orwell is not alone in his political bias.

Of course, the CBC is somewhat renowned in Canada for its own biases. I find it interesting that those of us who live in the BBC and CBC homelands take a less-rosy view of those networks than their fans in far-off America.

I don't; I expect every native to recognize bias if they care to consider and look for it. I value the BBC and the CBC as an American precisely as alternatives to American media. (Although as Alan suggests, Canada isn't exactly free from American influence.)

Every network, no matter where it's located/broadcasting from, has its own biases.

Exactly.

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Incidentally, I've mentioned this site before, but (M), you might be interested in Ekklesia in the UK given your interest in public religious discourse and an alternative to the BBC.

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Doug C wrote:

: (Although as Alan suggests, Canada isn't exactly free from American influence.)

Well yes, the CBC is like a lot of Canadian institutions that go a bit overboard with their biases precisely BECAUSE they react to American influence.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'd say it's more a case of Canadian media feeling guilty for having to piggyback onto US media so often, so it occasionally expresses dissent in order to individuate itself. ("See? We're not totally dependent on the US economy and culture!")

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Something tells me I should re-emphasize that I'm referring to specific radio programs of the CBC and BBC: As It Happens and BBC World Service, respectively. There are no nefarious anti-smoking commericals in either of these broadcasts.

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Oh come on, I do not think you are really this naive. Information monopolies exist within any power structure, and part of being an adult in the world today is identifying those monopolies and finding ways around them.

Absolutely. That isn't even a question, and I like your phrasing: information monopolies. But it has been interesting to actually be over here in the EU where news isn't as driven by corporate concerns as it has been in the states. There is an entirely different system of public policy issues in play. I benefit from the BBC each and every day, but I have had to learn how to negotiate an entirely different "information monopoly" in the process. Anyone listening intelligently to the BBC in America will have to do the same.

Not at all, I'm trying to be good-humored about the way you have used vague but heavy-handed slurs like "nanny state" and Orwell in what I hoped was going to be a serious conversation about information bias and diversity in the media.

It is definitely a conversation worth having, but I am not the first or last person in the UK you will hear referring to the "nanny state." It is both heavy handed AND completely true, at least in Scotland, and the news broadcasting here is very affected by these public policy issues (e.g. the smoking ban). I will have to defer to residents of England for their takes on this issue. It may be different down there, as I tend to watch BBC Scotland news. (I would be delighted for a UK member of the board to hop in on this thread and critique my experience as an American in this "information monopoly.")

Every network, no matter where it's located/broadcasting from, has its own biases.

Of course. But news coming from the EU, the BBC included, has a uniquely difficult network of biases to untangle that Americans are often unaware of.

Incidentally, I've mentioned this site before, but (M), you might be interested in Ekklesia in the UK given your interest in public religious discourse and an alternative to the BBC.

Cool. Thanks for the link. I am an Ekklesia Project signer, I wonder how this organization relates. Incidentally, you may be really interested in the Ekklesia Project, Doug, they produce some really provocative scholarship.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Thanks for the link, (M), I'll check it out. And it sounds like we may be working off the same page here after all. (Except that I'm still quite excited about BBC international coverage being available here in the States as an alternative news source.)

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