Thursday 7 December 2006

BBC: Worth It for International News Alone

I posted this on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 7 December 2006.


While these blog pages have looked at a couple very significant media launches over the past few weeks, it is worth remembering the real value of what is still one of the greatest media organisations on the planet: the BBC. I've written about the first week of broadcasting at Al Jazeera English, and my fellow blogger Nina Brenjo has looked at the start of France 24, but the UK's public service broadcaster is also in the headlines these days because a decision is imminent on the renewal of its licence fee for another seven years.

Negotiations with the government have been going on for a while, and what it comes down to essentially is this: the BBC would like to see an increase in its funding just above inflation, and the government would like the BBC to take on some additional new tasks, including the country's switchover from analogue to digital. Timothy Garton Ash has a great piece in today's Guardian outlining the issues, and I encourage everyone, not just UK citizens, to read it if you are at all interested in media.

I agree with his praise of the BBC entirely, especially as it relates to news coverage. The broadcaster does have its problems, and it does alter the media market in the UK in some challenging ways for competitors at times. But still, despite its problems, the BBC is a model for independent public service broadcasting around the world, and it is one of the things that really does make the British half of me feel very lucky indeed when I hear journalists from other parts of the world talk about the difficulties they have in their media markets.

It's the licence fee arrangement that really allows the BBC to cover international news, for example, in a way that would be difficult for commercial broadcasters to sustain.

Wednesday 6 December 2006

Online Iran

From my Reuters AlertNet blog on 6 December 2006.


The online media in Iran have been under pressure for some time, and yet, there are also signs that the government understands the value of new media. Reporters Without Borders yesterday released a statement, noting that both YouTube and the New York Times websites were both being blocked inside the country. Wikipedia's English and Kurdish versions have been blocked for a time, and the blacklist is growing in the shadow of a general ban on high-speed Internet access imposed two months ago.

"The government is trying to create a digital border to stop culture and news coming from abroad -- a vision of the Net which is worrying for the country's future", the organisation said. "But, more generally it is a threat to the worldwide web which, instead of aiding understanding between peoples could be changed into a medium of intolerance. The Iranian government policy is not an isolated case."

Still, at least one move suggests the government "gets it" when it comes to online media. President Ahmedinejad has his own blog in four languages.