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A lofty ivory tower?

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 12:22 UK time, Friday, 20 October 2006

Beware of the wisdom of crowds - or the man in the pub. Some of the cautionary phrases used by BBC folk at an internal audience seminar chaired by the BBC's head of news Helen Boaden. I was on the panel along with the editor of the Guardian, our political editor Nick Robinson and world news editor Jon Williams (you can read Jon's thoughts on the matter below this post, or by clicking here).

Radio One logoSo where do we stand on the issue of how much to listen to our audiences - how much say we give them about story selection and running orders?. How much do we impose and how much do we interact?

Enter Sarah - a 21 year old listener to Radio 1 who gave me some good advice when we met up recently: "No matter how high up in the news you are, at the BBC or whatever, you've got to listen to us, we pay the licence fee... without us you'd be nothing". She's dead right and we ignore audiences today at our extreme peril.

It's not just a lip service thing though, it genuinely makes us editorially richer I believe - serving a young Radio 1 audience who love texting - the moment we stop reading their incoming texts on the stories of the day is the moment I lose touch with the people who make us tick - our 9.3 million listeners.

It's made our news agenda stronger and faster: We were alerted to stories like the dangers of "Snatch" landrovers in Iraq and Afghanistan by our listeners with military connections long before our other BBC network colleagues. And we were better able to gauge listener anger over Norwich Union's decision not to "quote happy" younger drivers on their insurance as well as current street issues on drugs, drink and sex.

It may not be right for all BBC outlets - and journalists still have an important role in checking out the facts and binning the hoaxes as well as sifting and editing the vast range of ideas, info and tips that come flooding in. But why should we be in charge in a lofty ivory tower? If you've got a better idea for a story - a lead - an investigation - just shout.

I am clear where we stand. Without our audience and our daily dialogue with them - we'd be finished.


  • 1.
  • At 12:56 PM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • ossus wrote:

I recently visited BBC site after a while, a considerable time. I was amazed how you have lost so much of your impartiality and depth on world affairs. Example of a correspondence like Harrison is a poor sub. for Dimbleby, or was it Dimbelby.

  • 2.
  • At 01:07 PM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

"Beware of the wisdom of crowds-or the man in the pub." In other words don't use the logic of mob psychology such as in a race riot or a lynch mob or the prattlings of drunks as authoritative sources for your news reports. Wow, BBC's so called "College of Journalism" doesn't waste time on the basic stuff, it goes right to the advanced topics straight away. Now I see how your reporters are educated and given perspective to achieve the qualities they routinely display.

  • 3.
  • At 01:04 AM on 22 Oct 2006,
  • Krystian wrote:

I am afraid BBC actually IS a lofty ivory tower. You are extremely multicultural and you can't stand other viewpoints as you consider them either 'insensitive' or 'extreme'. But it doesn't prevent you to present and promote violent ideologies like violent Islam and at the same time defame Christianity claiming you have the right to do so. Such attitude is nothing more than a hypocrisy.

To often you don't say what is need to be said and say something what is simply unreasonable but in line with PC policy.

Extreme multiculturalism like all extremes don't serve anybody's interest so it is time BBC reconsider its policy and implement some changes.

Fortunately you acknowledged that you are biased (here is article). But ultra multiculturalism is deep inside BCC and correcting it may take much time, assuming the BBC wants to improve in the first place.

  • 4.
  • At 11:02 AM on 22 Oct 2006,
  • Ahmed abouelhoda wrote:

Very nice keep it up

  • 5.
  • At 09:11 AM on 23 Oct 2006,
  • M wrote:

Are you happy with the mob psychology of an audience, jury, or electorate?

What were the action points from the seminar?

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