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Has new technology 'killed spontaneity'?

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Penny Vine | 14:40 UK time, Friday, 6 November 2009

A listener on a recent edition of Over to You claimed that the BBC World Service had "lost its soul".

This remark seems to have struck a chord as it's been picked up and debated by many of those who've contacted us since.

This week, Jonathan Snowden, listening in the UK offers his analysis of why that might be so.

microphone_studio_600.jpgNew studio equipment saves costs, but is it at the expense of truly live radio? One listener thinks so.

He suggests the villain of the piece is the automated system which plays out the programmes! Having this technology, although obviously a cost-effective resource "requires an announcer to record live at only one point in the day so that the same announcement can be replayed as if new throughout the rest of the day" which, says Jonathan, "kills much of the live spontaneity that characterised the World Service for so many decades".

Even in live programmes, "presenters are having to battle to work around the precise timings of the machines that have effectively replaced the live announcer.

Pauses here, the cutting off of people in mid-interview there, all to bring us a recorded programme trail that we have already heard many times over".

He ends by saying that he believes the World Service's heart is still beating, but sometimes he wishes that beat were a little more irregular! What's your diagnosis? Do you agree with Jonathan about this?

Elsewhere on the programme this week we find out whether the BBC is reviewing its presence in Kabul following the announcement by the UN that it is temporarily removing around 600 of its workers because of concerns for their safety.

Rajan also speaks to the Head of the Somali service about the communication he's had with both hostages and pirates involved in the abduction of a British couple from their yacht in the Indian Ocean.

Looking ahead, we're planning a programme where we'll get a group of BBC foreign correspondents in discussion about their lives and the stories that have made most impression on them.

Have you got any questions for them? For example, are you interested to know how they became correspondents in the first place? What aspects of their life are the most interesting or difficult?

If you have something to ask, please get in touch!

Penny Vine is producing Over To You this week.

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 10:40 and 23:40 every Saturday, and at 02:40 on Sunday (GMT).


  • Comment number 1.

    Jonathan's point is interesting.

    Ironically, technology may also be the cure for this problem.
    It's allowing us to increasingly participate in broad-ranging discussions. I think what the media is wrestling with now is that it's on the cusp of a new era and is being pulled in several directions a once.

    Traditionally, media has been a broadcast industry. Today, though, it's becoming more interactive. These ideas aren't necessarily in contradiction. It's just a question of framework.

    For example, a show might be broadcast on the internet(and social networking sites), and on traditional media. Producers might be patched in with various people on Skype, phone lines, text message, video chat...you name it. The shows could run in parallel, with cue points for traditional broadcast media (presenter says "if your listening on radio, we're out of time, but we're continuing the discussion at show.bbc.com", and just keeps on rolling)
    At some point in the relatively near future, radio and the internet may become fused anyway (using 3G and 4G technology), so that viewers might be given the option to follow the main broadcast timeline, or follow the show itself....or they might set up their own playlists based on topics...for example they might have some key topics they like and be notified when any presenter is touching on a topic they might like.
    What's more spontaneous than that?

  • Comment number 2.

    Broadcast technology has moved on and if the world service keeps on holding the old technology in contrast to all the others, this might be a bit strange.


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