The Radio 4 Blog
In times of conflict, language is highly contested. As well as military battles there are propaganda ones as well.
If a government bombing raid causes the death and maiming of innocent civilians how much more comfortable is it to use the term 'collateral damage'?
Terrorists wish to be called ‘freedom fighters’ or ‘soldiers on active service’, though of course they can be all of those; their bosses sometimes refer to themselves as members of an ‘army council’, and give themselves grand sounding titles.
The Prime Minister and over a 100 back bench MPs want the BBC to stop using the term ‘Islamic State’ to describe the organisation which is conducting terrible atrocities all over the Middle East.
The BBC’s Director General has said no.
This particular conflict is set to run for some time.
One of David Cameron’s predecessors as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, also attacked the BBC for its use of language, particularly during The Troubles and The Falklands War.
IRA members were just terrorists in her book and when the BBC refused to refer to ‘our’ troops fighting in The Falklands she blew her top. In her view...
Some paws for thought...
Could your cat break the internet? Next weekend on BBC Radio 4, the comedian Susan Calman explores why the internet loves cats. To celebrate this, we want you to tweet us pictures of your moggie enjoying their favourite Radio 4 programme- maybe Desert Island Whiskers, The Shipping Pawcast or You and Claws?!
Don't worry, we will share our cat-tastic favourites with you in the purrfect fur on 4 gallery.
Send them to @BBCRadio4 using #R4Cat. That’s @BBCRadio4 and don’t forget to include #R4Cat.
Tom the cat in Macclesfield
On Wednesday I was in Tunbridge Wells in Kent. I wasn’t looking for the legendary “Disgusted” correspondent of the town but for the location of a BBC hostile environment training course.
In the past journalists covering conflicts and wars may have been rather cynical about such exercises; now they are increasingly becoming targets and there seem to be fewer clearly defined front lines, such courses are taken much more seriously. It is not just death and serious injury that face today’s reporters, producers, camera people and sound recordists but the possibility of kidnapping and rape.
Earlier, back in London I had talked to the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, about how she copes in war zones, and with the appalling scenes she has to witness so that we can be informed about what really is going on.
One of the instructors on the course told me how much he had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. This was manifested not just in nightmares but in appalling images evoked by the smoke of an ordinary bonfire which brought back the smells of a conflict zone - rotting, burning flesh...
We discussed political bias this week, in particular the coverage of the recent general election campaign. The BBC’s Director of News, James Harding, had already said that the electoral coverage had been “infected” by misleading polls and that as a result there had been too much “coalitionology”.
He also said that he was “astonished by the ferocity and frequency of complaints from all parties” during the election campaign. Well I am astonished that he was astonished. It has always been a tough period for the...
Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm is an unusual book - a doctor’s diary that explains the humanity involved in the practice of medicine, and the consequences of understanding that. Among them, that it is good to realise that there is frailty in a surgeon like anyone else, and that there are worse things than death. Marsh is a neurosurgeon, now 65, and his story - put together over many years and part personal history as well as a meditation on a hospital life - is given excitement by the way it describes the...
Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub on BBC Radio 4
When this month’s group of readers met Hisham Matar to discuss his book In the Country of Men, we talked about Gaddafi’s Libya, where the story is set, and what it’s like to be young in a world of secrets that you can’t unravel. The book is a picture of what it’s like to live in a closed society, with fear on the doorstep. But we also spoke about writing. Hisham, whose book brought him worldwide attention and was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, wanted to explain how he went about constructing a...
It seems rather discourteous of us to leave you before the end of the election campaign, when several listeners are only just managing to restrain themselves from smashing their radios with frustration about some of the election coverage, particularly bad tempered interviews.
By the time we return I assume a government of sorts will have been formed, either a coalition or a minority one with pledges of support from smaller parties. One of the issues which will surface early will be the future of the BBC and the licence...
Alan Davey has thousands of CDs and LPs. The new Controller of Radio 3 knows that in the digital world he has no need of them but he can’t bear to throw them out. Just to look at them gives him pleasure.
This does not sound like a man who is going to take a yard brush to his new network. Mind you, he would not be popular with the BBC Trust if he did. It said recently that :”we think that the priority for Radio 3 should be to increase choice for radio listeners by maximising its distinctiveness and minimising similarities...
Does the BBC take its radio audiences for granted, because they are loyal and have nowhere else to go?
I raise the question because it has been raised with me by a number of listeners as a result of continuing problems with iPlayer radio. Three years ago on Feedback we discussed the problem of radio programmes made available on iPlayer after broadcast, sometimes cutting out before the end, leaving listeners frustrated, rather like readers of detective novels who come to the climax of the story only to find that the last,...
25 years on, people are still talking about Laura Palmer. Writer and broadcaster Danny Leigh's documentary asks why Twin Peaks has had such a lasting influence.
At first glance, the mystery of Twin Peaks was cracked halfway through the show’s second series. After all, that was when the murder of high school prom queen Laura Palmer was solved and the guilty party unmasked. But the real...