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US election coverage

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 17:06 UK time, Monday, 3 November 2008

As messrs McCain and Obama have criss-crossed the US in a final round of campaigning ahead of the election, I hope you won't mind me explaining here some of the changes we've got planned on the BBC News website which will, we hope, allow us to report the event even better, using some new features.

A graphic of the BBC News websiteCentral to our coverage will be a fast and comprehensive results service, a live video stream of BBC TV election special programming for UK and international audiences and the full range of reporting from BBC correspondents across the US and around the world.

To display all this effectively on the website we'll be making use of new designs that should allow us to show the main story in a wider, two-column format on the front page with a selection of bigger images to accompany it, along with more room for other related election news headlines.

For an idea of how the new page format is shaping up look at the US elections page, where we have already made some of the changes.

US Elections page

There is also a new carousel format allowing a bigger selection of on demand video to be displayed.

From Tuesday evening UK time we'll have an area on the main pages displaying the full results service including a dynamically updating map, scoreboard and ticker. These will be fed by a multiplatform results data system which will also be driving the results for our other platforms including mobiles, and BBC TV and radio on election night. It will be co-ordinated from a central results desk in our Washington bureau.

Another recently developed feature will be a "live page" - a format that allows us to provide the live video stream of the election programme on a page which also automatically refreshes to bring in the latest text updates as they come in, including key developments, quotes and comment from BBC correspondents, our users and the rest of the web. This was first used for Olympics coverage over the summer on the BBC Sport site and we've now adapted it editorially to give us a fast-moving, multimedia format for reporting the election as the story unfolds.

The BBC US election blogs, meanwhile, will continue to play an important part in our coverage, featuring on-the-ground reporting by Gavin Hewitt and Matt Price from the campaign camps and Justin Webb's overview, insight and analysis.

So those are some of the main things we're planning. I hope it all works - and that you like it!


  • Comment number 1.

    i think that the bbc has done an excellent job in its coverage of the united states elections coverage!

  • Comment number 2.

    Have the BBC any plans to observe the election in some detail to ensure that the electro-mechanical voting machines actually work?

    It is one thing to hold a democratic election and quite another to do it properly, and the US has some serious negative form in this regard.

  • Comment number 3.

    After the election is over, will your "North America" correspondent finally find time to even mention Mexico or Canada, let alone visit them? None of your (many) correspondents have set foot outside the USA for at least a year. This is not North America coverage - it is USA saturation coverage.

    I haven't seen Justin do anything that Matt Frei couldn't do for him. It would have been nice to see Justin's take on the Canadian federal election - where a right-wing incumbent was returned with an increased number of seats - compared to the Republicans' struggles.

  • Comment number 4.

    Perhaps before 'kick-off' you should take a register to make sure no one is missing ?

    Matt Frei - [no reply...think he's somewhere else..]

    Justin Webb- PRESENT

    Gavin Hewitt -PRESENT

    Martha Kearney - PRESENT

    Shaun Ley - PRESENT

    Matt Price - Que ?

    Emily Maitlis - ?

    And many many more...

  • Comment number 5.

    you know many may knock the americans and there system , party leaders raising billions upon billions of dollars just to place one person incharge.
    but at least they can elect there leader unlike here where we have to suffer whom the party nominates into the post, thus we end up with a dictator and call it democratic.
    looking at how much obama has raised for his election is enough to solve the whole of europes financial problems its saddening realy if you think about it.

  • Comment number 6.


    Voter turnout was on the lightside.
    Man on the moon ad is still showing.
    The lunar elect rested and sighed.
    Monday oarsmen remain rowing.

    Tuesday mission was won.
    Wednesday campaigned was stopped.
    Moon administration of one.
    Moonrocks at the party popped.

    Man on the moon dipped his toe in the sky.
    It'd been cold down there and he knew why.
    Man on the moon put a sign on the side.
    "Moondreams open for moonbeam ride."

    Man helped him to feel.
    Man on the moondream is real.
    Man on the moon will serve.
    Man on earth has the nerve.

    by Jim McClintock

  • Comment number 7.

    Good luck to the team for election night. Look forward to seeing all the innovations!

  • Comment number 8.

    I would like to know how much has the BBC spent covering the US elections over the past year?

    Could the resources have been better used to cover the world instead of just the USA with such a limited focus?

  • Comment number 9.

    Any plans to talk to people in the US who voted or worked the polls? (Radio Five Live did something like that in 2004.)

    Either way, I'll be glad to post the results from my local polling place on the blogs. (I'm a pollworker.)

  • Comment number 10.


  • Comment number 11.

    #5 "but at least they can elect there leader unlike here where we have to suffer whom the party nominates into the post, thus we end up with a dictator and call it democratic."

    Grow up.

    Firstly the US parties nominate who they want to run for office in the same way our parties do. If you want a say in who is head of the labour party join labour.

    If McCain or Obama drop dead on the 6th the US get a president they didn't directly elect either. Thats their system. Ours is that we elect a party and the party leader is prime minister (who incidentally is not head of state anyway- thats the Queen). Brown was always going to replace Blair in the same way Biden would replace Obama if he died, was impeached or otherwise couldn't govern.

    Nor is Britain a democracy- we're a constitutional monarchy who elect a government to run the country on our behalf. The best PM we ever had (Churchill in 1940) wasn't elected at all either.

  • Comment number 12.

    I thought it was interesting that when one comittee judged Sarah Palin 'guilty' of wrong doing it was reported here as 'front page' news.

    Now another comittee has judged her 'not guilty' that is hidden away on a side bar of the election news.

    I don't claim to know (or care) what she did or didn't do. But I do find the pattern of coverage both interesting and predictable.

    Oversight? Or deliberate attempt to infuence opinion?

  • Comment number 13.

    I wouldn't fault the BBC's coverage of the US would be hard to fail with such a large investment in reporters, technicians, editors, a gigantic travel budget etc etc.

    As a person who follows international affairs closely however, I am troubled by the extent of the coverage. The overkill seems enormous, to the extent that all national news items lead on the US election and have done so for some time as the battalion of staff build up in Washington and key marginals.

    I struggle to recall whether such coverage exists for other important elections...even our own elections. The coverage of EU issues is pitiful by comparison. The current financial crisis which is of far greater relevance to our lives is relegated to the third or fourth item on the news.

    I say this with some trepidation as the accusation of demanding a "dumbed-down" parochial, "and finally" type newscast is obvious. It's virtually all over now but in future maybe the mainstream news shouldn't be so top heavy with foreign election coverage. Could this not be transferred to special programming on BBC2 or elsewhere, so that the political students can follow it in detail while the general public can enjoy a more diverse look at national and international events.

    It would be interesting to compare the depth of coverage on British general elections on US news media!

  • Comment number 14.

    Lucky for Gordon Brown he managed to have the Scottish by election on the same week as the US presidential elections; now if he gets humped at Glenrothes the BBC will be much too busy to report it. It seems like every BBC correspondent is on holiday in the USA at the moment willing Obama on as though he was going to do something for Britain; if he is it would be nice if the BBC told us about it. It strikes me that if Obama is elected our troops may find themselves facing the Taleban on their own in a few months time.

  • Comment number 15.

    I have to agree with Anglophone above on the point about comparative lack of local/ EU coverage. However I also think the impact of the US elections is far more significant from a global point of view and I totally support BBCs use of resources to ensure adequate coverage.

    It's probably also worth bearing in mind also that the BBC is a trusted news source that serves more than just the UK - I'm based in South Africa at the moment and it's great to get more objective non-American press opinion.

    On a lighter note, the US election has been a great source of comedy the world over - from battles for Joe the Plumber's vote vs Joe the CEO's vote to Sarah Palin's antics and McCain's fit for presidency debates. Check out the cartoon blog Wonkie on for a recap of the US election campaigns in cartoon format - it's hilarious!

  • Comment number 16.

    The coverage has not been news. It has been a god-sent filler for rolling news.
    The actual news could have been covered by Mr Webb in a 3 mins report each week.
    The results could have been analysed in a 1 hour special tomorrow.
    Still, I hope you all enjoyed your perks. Goes with the job I suppose.

  • Comment number 17.

    14 Kaebraes

    I think that Kate raises an interesting point here. The BBC's enthusiasm for Obama is concealed...but only just. Clearly they don't want to repeat the highly demeaning and counterproductive stunt pulled off by the Guardian at the last US presidential election.

    If you recall, Guardian readers were encouraged to participate in US blogs and to write to anyone who would listen, extolling the virtues of John Kerry and demonising (sorry...demonizing) George Bush. This elicited a lot of references to "interfering tea-sipping pansies" and galvanised the Republican vote.

    Tread carefully now!

  • Comment number 18.

    Pretty impressive.

    I'm preparing for the defeat of the left in our own elections here in New Zealand (Nov. 8th). Not much coverage of that obviously. Even the local TV News channels spend more time covering the US elections than our own.

    This video is where the two elections intersect:

  • Comment number 19.

    I have never been so bored with politics as i am with this american drivel. Why oh Why do we here in the UK have to have this 24hr circus rammed down our throats..... If its not on all the radio stations, each and every 1/2 hour, its BBC 24hr news on the hour, 1/2 hour 1/4 hour, enough is enough..... I'm English, neh British and I dont give a monkeys tosh about someting that has been going on for 21 months and cost millions upon millions of Bucks concerning the Good Old USofA. So it may have ramifications for us here, and the rest of the world but some of us are getting just a bit sick of the country that we cant do anything without their consent. Again, I'm British and damned proud of it, thank god it will be all over in a few days, maybe we can get on with the rest of our lives and sorting out our problems in this country that those oh so high and mighty Yanks have cocked up for us all.
    And so to my Point........ BBC, realise will you that we dont all care about what goes on in this charade they call American Elections. You have flooded our viewing and listening mediums to a point of drowning us and for that you have hit a low for me. I wish i could only get my licence fee back for the time this has been going on.
    Enough said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    I just want to say that I would much rather watch BBC coverage of anything as compared to US networks. But where on earth did you find that pompous ass that you had commenting this evening? The man seated to the left of Simon. An obvious Republican. A very rude, self righteous sore loser. I had to turn the program off after hearing just a few of his comments.

  • Comment number 22.

    Cheers to the election coverage team!
    I am American, and I watch BBCA to get the unbiased news of my Country...I am watching the coverage now, and find it excellent, The only mistake that was made, was allowing the megalomaniac Bolton on the programme, As an American, I apologize for his behaviour, As you can see, about half of us are normal, and if things continue in the election as they are, maybe we can improve our image, and heal some wounds that dubbya and his cronies have created.
    Thanks again!

    Jerry Witz

    ps I love the prime minister questions!

  • Comment number 23.


  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I am a Brit abroad and often watch through sky the breakfast news along side my local news. As a past employee of BBC I find it difficult to understand why the news is so one sided. The pictures shown of the people voting and celebrating on the breakfast news are black when the country is made up of many culturally different people. Please please please show a better representation of what is going on.

  • Comment number 26.

    From the agony to the ecstacy; if the protracted Russell Brand/Jonathon Ross debacle was a perfect example of BBC inertia and indecisive management, its coverage of the US election was an absolute triumph. David Dimbleby was excellent as ever as neutral adjudicator and his restraint after John Bolton's tirade was admirable and bore dignity sorely lacking from the sour-grape munching old republican.

    I thought the way in which the electoral college system was explained and graphically demonstrated was enormously innovative, and the fact it was roughly duplicated on the web was of great value to the viewer. I simultaneously watched CNN, American ABC, and Australian Channels Seven and Nine, but none approached the level of debate, commentary - and charmless though entertaining fractiousness - of the BBCs coverage.

    Watching the event unfold in country New South Wales, Australia, meant that I was able to view the entire carnival from start to finish without interruption by sleep or advertising. What a dreadful shame that comparatively few of the license fee payers in the UK were not able to reap the full benefit of their investment. Still, it is obviously churlish to blame the BBC for this, irrespective of how fashionable this can be at times.

    Congratulations to all involved in the transmission. It showed that, despite unwelcome distractions in realms beyond which the BBC should perhaps be focussing, the core ability of the broadcaster to inform and entertain the viewer - regardless of their location or nationality - remains undimmed and perhaps more impressive than ever.

  • Comment number 27.

    I am delighted with the News of the Democrats success in USA but a little uneasy at the overuse of African /Americans as the "Cause or main benificiaries of this result.
    African/Americans represent 13% of the voting population wheras "White"Americans (who voted in their millions for Obama represent 66%.
    A little more balance would help both AMERICANS and the DEMOCRATS


  • Comment number 28.

    It is so refreshing to see a NEW officer in charge and at the head of a SUPER powered country.
    Now, the time has come for the truth, shoulders to the wheel, and for the hard work, be you Black and proud, or any race, we must all feel proud of the change that is about to come about.
    I have scoured the the annuals of history for a historic change such as this ... Only to be left with none as monumental.
    A new sense of HOPE now faces us all over the world.
    Thank god the BBC with its impatial and on point coverage of this epic, was available to record this ground breaking news.
    And as it all unfolds, can we, the public and the media remain calm, while we have more of the same within the UK, with a emphasis on positive outcomes and promising policies for not only the enlightened, but the ordinary man in the street, perhaps?
    However, and whichever way you take on the recent run up to the event, its got to be postive for the planet.

    Thoughts of change?

  • Comment number 29.

    Why do the media say Mr Obama is black ?

    I thought he was mixed race . How does that make him black ?

    Who cares anyway ?

  • Comment number 30.

    Excellent coverage from the BBC. Whilst the graphics and data streams/presentation wasn't up to the standard of CNN (the highest point of their presentation), the panel, chair and hosting was far superior than all the other man presentation stations (CNN, Sky, CBS, MSNBC).

    Well done on some excellent work, not least the 'global' view you were giving the night/morning (I realise you were simulcasting on BBC News, BBC World & BBC One).

  • Comment number 31.

    New to this but quietly seething about typical BBC jumping on bandwagons about BO being first black man etc.

    He is of mixed race - as much white as black. His parents divorced when he was only two years old and he only saw his father once after that time.

    BBC, please get some balance.

  • Comment number 32.

    dennisjunior1's comment might be simply because he would seem by the name to be very young.

    Saturation of an event in which the UK population does not actively participate would again question judgment at the higher levels of the BBC - a bit like the Brand-Ross farrago and still allowing Ross to get away with it.

    delminister should be advised that the system and leader belonging to the USA is spelt THEIR

  • Comment number 33.

    The First black president and F1 champion! Really?
    I am big fan of Barack Obama and Lewis Hamilton, but am slightly puzzled by the continuing reference to them being the first black President and F1 Champion. I feel a little sorry for both Barack's and Lewis' mothers and step mum, who no doubt also played as big a part as any in his upbringing and, of course, his ethnic origin, be it behind the scenes or otherwise.
    No one would argue that diversity of any kind in politics, sports and in fact all walks of life is a good thing, but surely both Barack and Lewis are as much white as they are black!

  • Comment number 34.

    I like the changes made with regards to the website during the coverage of the US Elections, as described in the blog post. They are definitely improvements and definitely add benefit, and are a good example of the end-user considerations being met.

    However, regarding the US Election coverage in general, I understand the huge impact this will have around the world, including the UK. However, the coverage of the elections seems quite excessive, compared to the coverage of the last UK elections.

    How will the BBC likely cover the next UK elections? Will it be to the same scale as these US elections?

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree that the BBC's coverage of the US Presidential election has been generally good.
    What concerns me is why so many of their top jounalists both radio and TV have to be jaunted out there at our expense.
    You are forever telling us how many foreign correspondents you have situated around the world - why is it that the coverage could not be done by those in situ or by hiring indigenous US reporters to cover the event.
    These big 'jollies' should cease and the supposed "celebrities" should stay at home.

  • Comment number 36.

    An excellent job. I especially like the interactive map. There is a slight mistake on the 'proportional' graph as there is one square of Nebrasca that is coloured as Missouri. Any chance of getting it corrected?



  • Comment number 37.

    Is there any other news going on in the world or are all your reporters in USA?? I know this US election is a momentous event but saturation coverage is boring and repetitious. Surely world, european and local news stories could be better balanced

  • Comment number 38.

    Great coverage, watched via the website all night, presentation was great, reporters good (especially Justin Webb) but not sure about the computer generated ticker tape and what was Gore Vidal on?

  • Comment number 39.

    I believe the world looks forward to sanity replace lunacy of the past 8 years. Right wingers have been completely routed. Never again the likes of Bush and Cheney!!!

    Great victory for democracy and secularism! We all hope that America would be a better place and so would be the whole world.

    Faith flagger fundamentalists Christians were totally defeated. They did all they could to keep the status quo however sanity of majority of American voters prevailed.

    Three cheers to American voters. Please stay that way! Message for the World: Reject - Faith Based Politics, Faith Based Education and any Politician who flag up their faith based policies. I believe Faith - any faith of any religion leads to fundamentalism and that leads to inclination to terrorism against others and each other.

    The world would be a better place without IT.

  • Comment number 40.

    Re:post 36.

    It now seems to be filled in black.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm not too bothered about Delminster's use of 'there' instead of 'their', but I am bothered that he thinks they have spent so much on the election. The total spend was just over one billion, which is less than is spent on skin care products in the US. It would just be a drop in the ocean of the financial crisis and it is money spent largely on wages.

  • Comment number 42.

    Would it be possible, in light of the "beyond race" stance of both candidates, to refer to Barack Obama as 'the new president elect' rather than the first black... the black... I find it frankly ... racist. We don't refer to John McCain as white.
    Let us deal with this very special man as a person, not as a black person. That is what he would like us to do. Of course his colour has significance, in some circumstances. But it is so much less than the wholeness and the balance of the man.

  • Comment number 43.

    I am perplexed as to why it has been necessary for every BBC current affairs and news programme, be it TV or radio, to send its main presenters out to the US for days at a time, over the last 4 months to cover the US presidential primaries and election. We have had the presenters of the main news, newsnight, politics show, R4 Today programme etc etc etc and their camera crews all over the US - Chicago, Washington, New York, Arizona, etc etc. This must be costing Millions and largely a waste of my licence fee. Last night, 18 minutes 20 seconds of the 28 minute 6pm news was about the US election mainly live from the US. Frankly, most of this coverage is unwanted & unnecessary. The US coverage of OUR elections is probably about 1 minute when the result is announced. Editors, I look forward to receiving your response.

  • Comment number 44.

    Seeing as the coverage overnight on BBC News Channel right now is a simulcast with BBC World, I'm guessing that organisation is footing the bill for part of the cost of sending BBC journos out to the US. As posted elsewhere, that's not license fee payers money.

  • Comment number 45.

    Bigjohnnym and Jordan D I can't believe your stance.
    This is the most momentous thing that has happened on the international political scene since the Iraq war. I, along with many thousands of others spent most of last night watching the excellent BBC coverage of the election. It is exactly what I want to pay my licence fee for. Well done BBC and all involved.

  • Comment number 46.

    Piper, I think you mistake my stance.

    I porudly and happilly watched the BBC Coverage last night and was pleased to see such comprehensive coverage throughout the night - both in terms of punditry and guests, as well as positioning of the journalists. (See Post #30)

    My comments in Post #44, give some reassurance to the others on the board who are frustrated/annoyed that licensee fees are being used on this. I for one, am happy for my licensee fee to be used for the US Election coverage - I was simply suggesting that no doubt some of the coverage costs were picked up by BBC World.

  • Comment number 47.

    Great Stuff from the BBC News team in covering the U.S. Presidential Election

    I think that the most acute visual impression that one can come away with after this election is not the candidates themselves, or whether we are witnessing history in the making ( which it undoubtfully is). It is the calm and patient display of the power of democracy in action as was exhibited by the American People waiting at the polls to exercise a precious right bequeathed to us by those in our history who won it so hardily. It is the freedom to choose our leaders without intimidation or fear: a freedom that we often take too much for granted in a world where it is denied to millions, as witnessed in Zimbabwe recently. I am sure that Snr. McCain and President Elect Obama would agree that on Tuesday, the American People were the real winners and by that,so are we all.

  • Comment number 48.

    I would have liked to hear Barack Obama's historic speech,but every time he started,on TV or radio,he was interrupted by BBC experts , who told us what he was saying.The little I heard of the man himself speaking convinced me that he is the most inspiring orator of our time. He didn't require commentators.

  • Comment number 49.

    So hear we have it what they said would never happen, a Black Man in the White house!!. I just want this talk of colour to go away so I would like to see the name change the Presidential Palace , because lets face it, it won't be a 'white house' will it when the Obama's move in.!!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Sorry Jordan D.
    I was a little annoyed at the previous comment and didn't fully understand. Isn't BBC world paid for by the licence fee anyway?

  • Comment number 51.

    PLS RESPOND TO THIS ................

  • Comment number 52.

    When is News 24 returning to presenting all the news? The Americans have selected a new President! Hooray! Is he President of the World? You would think so if the coverage by the BBC is anything to go by!

  • Comment number 53.

    Piper (#50) - not a problem. BBC World is paid for by advertising and grant-in-aid. More details were posted on:

    Maybe the poster in #51 can read that to. And turn caps lock off.

  • Comment number 54.

    Your coverage has for many weeks been rabidly pro Obama. Not necessarily anti McCain but defintiely pro Obama.

    And you continue to refer to him as an "African American" or "black". He is of mixed race and to deny this is to deny half of his heritage and to slight his mother.

  • Comment number 55.

    i am soo please that Barack has exelled in the US Elections and i think the BBC coverage has been great but i do think the BBC need a reality check! I appreciate that what the US does affects the entire planet but the BBC have given more coverage of an election in a foreigh territory than our own country. In the face of looming recession surely hundreds of staff they have in that country would be utilised better elsewhere or indeed bringing news stories that are within our own country. I feel sorry for Barack Obama more than anything. Big Brothers watching you Barack! The world should just let him get on with the job in hand.

  • Comment number 56.

    Am I the only person who thinks we have given far too much coverage to the US election? Would they be as interested in our elections - I think not. As a taxpayer I object too so much of my money being used in this way. Perhaps the BBC would like to tell us how much it has cost to cover this.

  • Comment number 57.

    I really enjoyed the election night programme till about 1.30,when it was getting a bit repetitive,and I was tired anyway!
    Matt Frei is a great reporter,and not bad looking either.I usually seem to agree with most of what he says.
    Christopher Hitchings was amusing and incisive too,loved his comments on Sarah Palin!

  • Comment number 58.

    I was in France and missed the results coming in.

    Instead I watched vidios on CNN tonight to get a grasp of it all.

    I found that infiitely preferable to listening to PM on R4 dyay after day.

    It's a real shame Radio has been thrust into the darkest damp corners of the forest by relentless repetition.

    The Election, The Financial Crisis, the shock Horror of UN folks firing guns ..endlessly repeated every news broadcast as in between the same is repeated.

    Is it anywonder people lose control of their cars when listening to such frustrating gibberish?

    At least Obama has a happy ending thus far which is more than can be predicted for the poor folks subjected to R4 productions during their daily comute.

  • Comment number 59.

    As a Brit living in Boston for 2.5 yrs I access much of my news through Matt Frei and BBC World News/America. I was happy to see him present for the Election night coverage to provide his impressive knowledge of US affairs from an Englishman's point of view. For me it was a shame that David Dimbleby was brought in to anchor the show - he appeared overly judgmental about the US electoral system and seemed rather amateur with the technology. Excellent range of interesting and provocative panelists - I particularly enjoyed Simon Schama perched next to John Bolton.

    My main gripe was with some of the journalists who I found very irritating. They seemed not to have been given enough time for proper conversations with their interviewees. They kept butting in and cutting them off. For example, rather than allowing a Republican farmer from Virginia to actually tell his story and give some insight into why he had maintained his vote for McCain despite the current economical situation the interviewer cut him off after a few words and it came across as a cheap-shot attempt at a portrayal of a stereotypical "red-neck".

  • Comment number 60.

    11/10 to Dimbleby for his response to John Bolton's idiotic nationalist tirade.

  • Comment number 61.

    The 2008 US election captured the imagination of the World. Though Obama is a truly remarkable man and his achievement extraordinary, we seem not to give enough credit to the American People. It was their imagination that was fired up. It was they who were ashamed of what Bush / Cheney had doen to their country's reputation. Yes there are powerful institutions in the US that dominate, the Industrial Military Complex par exelance. But there are the people too. They stopped Vietman by taking the streets and refusing to fight. They are abhored by the abuse of human rights of the present government. It was the American people who had the imagination to elect Obama, and he never stops aknowleging the fact and thanking them. So well don Obama, Well done Americe. As a Swahili speaker I send this message to the President Elect, "Nenda Salaama Obama."

  • Comment number 62.

    Gentlemen and Ladies,

    It’s about your Jeremy Paxman. True, he does have some merit as an investigative journalist (having no reputation to put on the line, he boldly goes where others fear to tread). But this is really too much.

    In response to his recent program(me):

    I have to say that Jeremy showed both a lack of historical perspective and sensitivity to the real progress in racial equality shown in the recent US Presidential Elections.

    First, he referred to the “the US’s shameful history regarding slavery.” While we are truly ashamed of that history, we are not unique. It seems a bad case of the pot calling the kettle black, as they say. You may wish to review England’s shameful history at the end of this post.

    Secondly, (pausing for deep breath and counting to 10) to believe for even one second that Dizzee Rascal (if that really is his name) has one iota of relevance to a discussion of international politics is Ludakris ;-)

    Why not put young Jeremy to work ferreting out (and that term seems particularly appropriate) war crimes and boondoggles committed by the Bush Administration? There’s real work to be done there.

    Keep up the good work, though. Don’t know what we’d do without BBC here in the colonies. We do so enjoy your Dr…. what was his name ;-)

    Nearly sincerely,

    Thomas Savage
    (Not Earl Rivers)


    Ships would leave Britain with cargo of cheap manufactured goods from Liverpool and Bristol and travel to West Africa where they would be exchanged for slaves. The slaves were then taken to the Caribbean where they were exchanged for sugar that was then brought back to Europe and sold for a very large profit. The huge monetary gain made sure people were not overly concerned with the humanitarian aspect of the slave trade or even the ethical issues. They were making money that would enable them to buy more ships and as such give Britain the advantage of being the world's most forceful naval power.

    1562 saw the first English slave trader, John Hawkins, leave England with 100 men and 3 ships. He captured 300 slaves in Sierra Leone and sold them in Hispaniola. He was a resident of Deptford, South-East London and on his return with his ships filled with goods such as hides, ginger and sugar, he found a new business partner in Queen Elizabeth I.

    By 1567, Hawkins was onto his 3rd slaving expedition and this time he took along Sir Francis Drake. He was yet another pioneer of the slave trade and also a Deptford resident. His family were well connected with slave trading as was Sir Walter Raleigh.

    The English Royal family had a great connection with slavery starting from Elizabeth I. The Duke of York used to get his initials, 'DY', branded onto the left buttock or breast of each of the 3000 slaves who were his. He shipped them out to the Caribbean.

    In 1624 the English colonised Barbados and St. Kitts and approximately 23 years later, the first sugar from Barbados was sent to England. England captured Jamaica from the Spanish and the slave trade had yet another place in which to thrive.

    An estimate of the population of slaves in the British Caribbean during the period of 1776 to 1848 is approximately 428,000 out of a population of 500,000.

    As most people know, the British are a very particular set of people and as such they decided to create a company that would control the British slave trade. This company was called the Royal African Company and was established in 1672. Between the years of 1680 and 1686, the Royal African Company transported an average of 5,000 slaves per year. They received annual grants from parliament totalling around £90,000 overall and even had King Charles II as a shareholder, maintaining the Royal involvement with slavery.

    Soon enough private traders wanted in on the lucrative trading of 'human cattle' and in 1698 parliament approved private traders to participate in the slave trade on payment of 10% duty on English goods exported to Africa. The Royal African Company was abolished at this time.

    Business started booming and in 1700 Liverpool's first slave ship called the 'Liverpool Merchant' transported 220 slaves to Barbados and sold them for £4,239 (pounds sterling). That's less than £20 per slave. Liverpool had 8 major slave traders who together could transport 25,820. That worked out around 50-550 per ship.

    In 1733 England signed a treaty with Spain called the 'Treaty of Utrecht'. This treaty basically granted England monopoly of the Spanish slave trade for 30 years. England promised at least 144,000 slaves at the rate of 4,800 slaves per year.

    It wasn't until 1772 that Lord Mansfield came to a decision and proclaimed it illegal to remove any person forcibly from England. The slave trade still continued due to the fact that so many of the major political players in Liverpool and such were heavily involved with slavery. One prime example was Richard Pennant who was Liverpool's MP. He owned 8,000 acres of sugar plantations and over 600 slaves in Jamaica. He was in office between 1777 and 1780 then re-elected in 1784 to 1790. Three out of 41 councillors in Liverpool were slave ship owners or major investors in the slave trade and during the years of 1787 and 1807, all 20 mayors who held office in Liverpool financed or owned slave ships.

    In 1808, over 100 years since the British Empire became involved in slave trading, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished within the Empire and also in the United States. It wasn't until 1827 however that Britain declares the slave trade as piracy making it punishable by death. In 1833 slavery was abolished throughout Europe and the Emancipation Act went through British parliament. It still took another 11 years until 1838 before slavery was fully abolished within the British Empire.

    Sadly the unequal system continued with the first indicator being an award of some £20,000,000 (20 million pounds) to the planters by way of compensation and nothing was awarded to any former slaves. The way the system then started to work made things even more difficult for former slaves. They were forced to continue working in arduous conditions on the plantations due to the system introducing high taxes on smallholdings, high rates for licenses or small traders and contracts to shackle the labourers to the large plantations.

    In 1844 the shortage of labour led to the introduction of indentured labour from another of Britain's colonies, India. The Indian labourers made conditions worse for former slaves as they undermined any attempts to achieve improve conditions through strikes. By 1917 145,000 Indians had been transported to Trinidad and 238,000 to Guyana. Jamaica was also affected with around 39,000 immigrants. The only island not affected was Barbados.

    England's involvement in the slave trade can be seen to this very day in that the National Gallery in London was funded on it as was Lloyd's of London and the Bank of England. During the 17th and 18th centuries, involvement in the slave trade was actually seen to be a respectable occupation! Many of the London merchants who were taking almost 3/4 of the sugar imported from the West Indies lived in South London in Blackheath.

  • Comment number 63.

    As an individual I am sick of hearing about US politics. If we could vote in their election there would be some point in this massive coverage. Yes it is always good to be informed but not to be drowned in US politics.

  • Comment number 64.

    Hookit58 - being based in the UK, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. I have to say though following the commentary on the US elections is considerably more entertaining if you think of the event as a large scale version of Endemol's Big Brother show.

    Obamamania seems to be storming forward all over the world with even the likes of India and South Africa throwing inauguration parties now - and not by nationals of those countries either. The media coverage of the US elections certainly has proven to have a long tail.

    One can only wonder if the upcoming elections in South Africa would merit a passing mention by the BBC. If anything, more blatant evidence of corruption at the highest levels, and then total disregard thereof by the voting public should be most entertaining, if not newsworthy for the British public.


  • Comment number 65.

    Considering it wasnt the most importtant bit of news for us i thin kit was fine.


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