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Newspaper readers

Ceri Thomas | 15:18 UK time, Friday, 15 December 2006

Usually, the only way to guarantee that some snippet of news about the BBC will appear in a newspaper diary is to ask people inside the corporation to treat it as top secret.

The Today programme logoGenerally speaking, if you do that you can expect Fleet St to be buzzing with the news within an hour or two at most. So it was surprising (and disappointing in a curious way) to find something in the Daily Telegraph's diary this morning that just wasn't a secret at all: from next Monday, the newspaper reviews in Today will be read by the presenters rather than the news readers.

Sandwiched in the Spy column between David Cameron on one side and Chrissie Hynde on the other, the article says the change will alarm "those who have criticised the programme for lacking political objectivity". But it's hard to see why when the presenters will be reading out the same scripts written by the same people (in the Radio Newsroom) who write them now.

The presenters already read out some of the paper reviews, of course - early in the programme and on Saturday morning, for instance - so this is a smallish change. And The Telegraph is right: we're hoping it will help everything flow along a little more smoothly.


  • 1.
  • At 04:59 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Richard Morris wrote:

Why call them 'newspaper reviews'? Where is the critical analysis of the news as presented by the papers? Does anyone ever say a story is badly written or misleading or just plain wrong? Your ever increasing reliance on newspapers as a way to fill news programmes merely serves to underline the paucity of your own newsgathering operations.

  • 2.
  • At 09:49 AM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

Good God this may be the dullest posting I've ever read.

Newspaper reviews? Who reads them? Who cares?

  • 3.
  • At 11:11 AM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Brian wrote:

When I read this on the blog, although it does seem like a minor change, my heart did sink a little. The old way of doing things wasn't broken, so why try and fix it (the BBC is always trying to do this!). But I heard it this morning and it felt kind of normal. Please don't let the formal review of the papers die, though, it's actually the best bit of the morning's radio.

  • 4.
  • At 02:03 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

BBC's selectively reading newspaper opinions is only one of a vast array of tactics BBC has at its disposal to skew the news. I could hardly list them all. Inventing new definitions for old words (a la Noam Chomsky), connecting words to old definitions in novel ways (the Islam banking story re interest payments), selectively interviewing those people it finds useful to make a point without presenting the other side, conducting friendly interviews with those they agree with virtually giving them a platform to orate from, confrontational interviews with those they don't agree with (a la Nick Robinson who utterly confused an American Presidential press conference with Prime Minister's Question Time at the Zoo of Commons), interviewing people who are certifiably loony (like the Israeli soldier who protested what he was assigned to do and did during the Lebanon war even though he could have opted out as a matter of conscience), presenting stories without adequate background information to put it in any reasonable context (like the story about damage to Lebanon's businesses and economy resulting from the war or reports of those innocents killed by Israeli rockets who are deliberately kept in close proximity with the "militants" who are the targets), I could go on and on. It's gotten to the point where I think many Americans automatically assume that if BBC said it, it must be a lie. The most dangerous thing about BBC's methods is that unlike the old Radio Moscow, they take into consideration all of the subtle nuances of the English speaking audience. However, to those perceptive enough to see through it, their intent is often obvious and when cultural differences they completely miss are taken into account, sometimes even funny. BBC should pay close heed to Sir Christopher Meyer's words in the current airing of "The Interview." As he pointed out, it's understanding of its audience on my side of the pond is far less than perfect.

  • 5.
  • At 02:49 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • James wrote:

Oh dear, did Nick ruffle a few feathers? Not tow the Yank media's policy line of giving Bush & friends an easy ride...

I always find it amazingly ironic when American's comment on media objectivity

  • 6.
  • At 01:25 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

Is there any change so small, any blog posting so innocuous, that someone can't turn it into a rant about how the BBC is biased against Israel? Sadly, I suspect not, because it is of course a deliberate tactic. The BBC gives both sides of the story, and some people don't like to hear that, so their only option is to try to discredit its objectivity. Say it often enough and the drip-drip effect means that people will start to believe that the BBC is a mouthpiece of Al Qaeda, whatever the evidence to the contrary.

  • 7.
  • At 09:39 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • angus wright wrote:

I think the most interesting word in Ceri Thomas' comment above is 'small-ish' Nowhere does he offer a believably sound reason for the change. Consider the difference for the listener.
Why has the BBC for years broadcast a summary of daily newspaper news and opinion beside its own news bulletins? Presumably because it takes the view (correct in my view) that for the audience 'what's in the papers' is in itself news. But since it is not necessarily in line with BBC news' own editorial selection it is correctly segregated in a special bulletin of its own. Nevertheless, by having it read, like the main news bulletin, by a BBC announcer, the BBC gives it the same authority as the main news bulletin. This is a radically different broadcast from a semi-conversational review of more or less the same material by programme presenters, guests, or anyone else. There is room for both in Today and BBC News at large and in my view both are the poorer for the loss of the announcer-read review. We still don't know why Ceri Thomas decided to make the change. Perhaps he'd now like to tell us.

  • 8.
  • At 03:55 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • David wrote:

I'm afraid I don't like the new style - the old way was more concise, and the new "chat" between the presenters is more reminiscent of gossip between Breakfast TV presenters than the old way which seemed to cover more in less time.

I've given it the best part of a week, but the best Christmas present I could get would be to hear the old-style reviews back in the New Year (well not really but it's the sort of thing you're supposed to say when writing to the BBC, isn't it?)

  • 9.
  • At 11:55 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • gavin wrote:

"The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias", Andrew Marr, the Daily Mail, Oct 21st, 2006.

"It's not a conspiracy. It's visceral. They think they are on the middle ground", Jeff Randall, former BBC Business Editor, in The Observer, Jan 15th, 2006.

  • 10.
  • At 11:15 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

Free dissemination of propaganda yet the BBC claims to be short of money.
Where is its business acumen?

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