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Pictures on the radio

Peter Barron | 16:10 UK time, Friday, 30 June 2006

Last week I was taking issue with the Guardian's Emily Bell on the subject of podcasting in an article entitled "Top of the Pods". This week I find myself taking part in a podcast, in discussion with said Emily and a chap called Rob who's the editor of an independent podcast called "Top of the Pods", of which I was previously unaware.

Newsnight logoIt sounds like some sort of anxiety dream, but the proof that it really did happen can be downloaded at the Guardian's Media Talk podcast. The striking thing about the Guardian's podcast is that it's a tiny operation - a Mac in a room with a little sound desk and a couple of microphones. But the result is that what was first a newspaper and then a website is now effectively in the radio business. As Rob pointed out, the great thing about podcasting is you don't need funding or a licence or anyone's permission - you just do it. Emily's point is - given all that - should the mighty BBC really be doing so much?

(And talking of spooky coincidences, how about this one?)

Not that the citadels of the old media are exactly crumbling. I bumped into Today's Jim Naughtie at the chancellor's summer drinks this week. He was telling how within an hour of their item about dogs' names more than 400 listeners had emailed the programme with pictures of their dogs (more here).

So if dogs are your thing - and it seems for a great many people they are - Terry Wogan's corny old maxim that the pictures are better on the radio appears these days to be becoming literally true. Incidentally, when the Chancellor finally arrived he headed straight for the boys from The Sun. New media may be powering ahead, but with Rupert Murdoch publicly wondering whether to support David Cameron at the next election, Gordon Brown has no illusions where the old media power still resides.

Elsewhere... we've had plenty of our own user-generated content this week - much of it following FIFA's decision to clear Arsenal in relation to Newsnight's report about secret loans to a Belgian club - and not all of it polite. Frequently asked questions have included: why did Newsnight decide to investigate Arsenal when much more serious things are going on elsewhere in soccer, did we time our item to coincide with David Dein's re-election bid to the FA board, and now that Arsenal have been cleared will Newsnight be apologising?

Here are some answers.

I've no doubt there are all sorts of murky things going on at football clubs up and down the country and across the continent, but the reason we looked at Arsenal was that we were shown a document proving that Arsenal had provided secret loans to prop up Beveren. No, we didn't plan our item to coincide with Mr Dein's election - we learned about that on the day of broadcast.

And no, no plans to apologise. Arsene Wenger himself is on the record as saying "there is no question of financial support" to Beveren because "this is not allowed". Arsenal continued to deny a financial relationship until the day of our broadcast and then admitted they'd lent a million pounds. That isn't, as some viewers have suggested, a non-story. It's a fact, but what the FA and FIFA choose to do about it is a question for them.


  • 1.
  • At 12:00 PM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • H Short wrote:

Given the swift way in which the FA and FIFA cleared Arsenal would it not have been better for the Newsnight team to have done a bit more research into this matter before jumping to make a report? Just how secret the documents they 'uncovered' were was open to doubt given they were held on file by Beveren and were signed D Dein, Arsenal FC - not exactly signs of a club trying to cover its tracks as part of underhand financial dealings. To base the justification of the Newsnight report on one comment by Wenger shows either journalistic ineptitude or grasping at straws to try and make up for the fact that Newsnight's big scoop was a complete non-story.

  • 2.
  • At 12:03 PM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Dan Smith wrote:

Firstly I think it is important to make some facts clear here.

None of the "evidence" Newsnight ran with showed Arsenal breaking any rules. Surely the BBC should and could have checked FA and FIFA rules (they are all in the public domain so no excuses here) before running this story?

Now, whether Arsenal want to deny making perfectly legal payments to other organistations may very well be worthy of an investigation, but that investigation should be run in the context of making clear that no rules are being broken, and something the BBC should have made clear beforehand, rather than running a load of scare stories about Arsenal being kicked out of the europe which you MUST have known was never going to happen.

I'm sure the fact you are a "devoted Spurs fan" (Media Guardian) has nothing to do with all this !

  • 3.
  • At 09:52 PM on 02 Jul 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Newsnight is in the UK so please do not use the word soccer - it's football.


  • 4.
  • At 11:26 PM on 02 Jul 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

I still can't see why this story was run and with the sensational tag line of an expulsion from European or League competition when as demonstrated by the FA and FIFA's statements this was never on the cards. Beveren and Mr Guillou have issued statements refuting the allegations you have made and questioning the motive of the source of these allegations. Sorry this whole story and the way it was presented brings the BBC into disrepute.

  • 5.
  • At 03:59 AM on 06 Jul 2006,
  • John Kimble wrote:

So no apology for Arsenal? I suppose to be fair you haven't severely wronged them on any one issue - just treated them very harshly thoughoutout.

You did produce a reasonably interesting program about probems and loopholes in Belgium and the Ivory Coast, but somehow twisted it so that somehow everything was Arsenal's fault - obviously a poor attempt at trying to boost ratings.

I guess to be fair you don't owe Arsenal an apology becasue the only facts related to Arsenal that stand up are concerning how they pride themsleves on doing things the right way and that Wenger is generous with his money. Instead, how about an apology to all your viewers for wasting their time with such nonsense, for poor tabloid style journalism and for ignoring genuine stories that could have taken it's place? (actually perhaps tabloid style is too much of a compliment - at least the Sun have apologised to Arsenal).

I've boycotted Newsnight since the program aired - I haven't seen any references on the Newsnight site to the FIFA verdict - I'd be interested to know how much time your program actually devoted to stating FIFA had found Arsenal innocent?

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