Richard Sambrook (Director of BBC Global News) gave a speech is Ishfahan last week which he blogged about.
I flew in to Isfahan in the early hours sitting next to a young woman dressed in strictly islamic fashion with a modest chador and headscarf. But the book she was reading was "Why men love bitches: from doormat to dreamgirl", a woman's guide to holding her own in a relationship.From the speech he restated some basics:
Accurate, objective news and information, which all sides can trust, provides a foundation stone of rational debate in a world that is too easily dominated by intolerance and hatred. It is the gold standard of public value.The problem for me was when he stated:
I would argue that the world needs informed debate, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance; even if ultimately there’s little agreement. And basing that debate on reliable accurate news and analysis is the starting point.
That’s why the BBC invests more heavily in newsgathering than any other news organisation I know. Eye-witness reportage is important. Nothing beats saying ‘I was there’, I saw it’. Whether it’s the tragedy in Burma, or the personal experiences of everyday life in Teheran, we want to hear from ordinary citizens on-air and on-screen. This is a vital part of what we do as BBC journalists.He's still talking about filtered reporting - why? Why aren't local sources trusted to know more about the local issues which define a situation.
This is the BBC's real problem. It invests heavily in overseas bureau's - Sambrook's boast - but, as I know from reading their Sydney correspondent, this doesn't mean they - or, as I have noted, their US correspondents. - understand anything about where they are and truly perform their role of translating local issues for a British, never mind a world, audience. (Though the current Sydney one's far better than the last one).
Recently, the example of the Kenyan crisis where BBC Online experimented with local reporters paid off, I think. In Zimbabwe - where the BBC has no presence - it would be more useful to link, with riders, to local sources like sokwanele.com for the benefit of audiences - which they're not doing much of and which the BBC Trust raised as a problem, though not for these user-focussed reasons.
I fail to see why we continue to send Brits to far-away places when it would be more useful to get others who are just as qualified to explain their realities to us.
I recall in Australia Philip Adams on the ABC, child of the BBC, bringing in Beatrix Campbell to do just that. Campbell ain't unbiased but she gave a far better perspective for me on the UK than any ABC correspondent.
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