BBC BLOGS - The Editors

Archives for December 2012

BBC News comes to Burma

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Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 13:13 UK time, Monday, 17 December 2012

BBC World News will soon be available in Burma. Those are words that, even six months ago, I would not have imagined writing. But Burma, a byword for media censorship and repression, is starting to open up.

In September I visited Burma to begin the negotiations which led to this breakthrough in BBC distribution. I was struck by how rapid the media changes are for a country where state media had been long stuck in a repressive timewarp.

A World Service team visited the state broadcaster. We saw the most surreal newsroom I have ever visited. There were no journalists there. "Why not?" we asked. "We don't need them yet. The news hasn't arrived."

We learnt the news is literally delivered once a day by the state news agency. The job of the journalists was to read it out, word for word, unaltered.

But those journalists and editors are now keen to have the BBC's help in learning about open and balanced journalism. It will be a long road, given the ingrained habits of censorship and self-censorship.

But the BBC, through its pioneering media development charity BBC Media Action, is able to offer training to editors and journalists to teach them what independent journalism is. Even officials from the Ministry of Information, the former censors, asked if they could go on BBC journalism courses. Alongside the desire for training, the opening up of Burma to international broadcasters is naturally to be welcomed.

However, there is a long way to go. The massively popular BBC Burmese service, which we estimate is listened to by more than eight million people a week, is not yet allowed to broadcast within Burma. It is transmitted only on shortwave, faithfully listened to, as Aung San Suu Kyi has done for so many years. We urge the government to fully open its airwaves.

And we told the Burmese government that the BBC would continue to scrutinise the country closely. Indeed, as it becomes possible for our journalists to travel within the country, reports such as Fergal Keane's recent searing Newsnight film on human rights abuses in Rakhine state, will form a key part of the BBC's role in the country.

We will also continue to report the progress being made in the political and economic spheres.

At this early stage of opening up, it is hard to know if the hopes of media freedom will be fulfilled, but it is at least an encouraging sign that the BBC can now report from and to the country in English.

Authoritarian governments everywhere are asking themselves if they can and should hold back the free flow of news any more. And, as they ask themselves these questions, politicians, officials and journalists are looking to the BBC as the international exemplar of quality, impartial and independent journalism.

Peter Horrocks is the director of BBC Global News

Expanded distribution in the US for BBC World News

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Richard Porter | 17:11 UK time, Friday, 14 December 2012

This week viewers to BBC World News have been watching a series of reports focusing on the Arab uprisings, two years after they first began. Correspondents have been in Damascus, Tunis, Cairo, the Syria-Lebanon border and elsewhere. Their eyewitness TV reporting is accompanied by further explanation and analysis on our website, These are expert journalists, with years of experience and knowledge, living the story on behalf of the audience. They demonstrate our commitment to reporting the world, and bringing clarity to complex events.

Until now, however, viewers in the world's biggest TV market, the US, have found it hard to access BBC reporting of this kind. The market is saturated with TV channels, but for the past couple of years we've been very focused on securing widespread carriage on the distribution systems which bring TV into most homes.

So today the BBC is delighted to announce we have agreed to a partnership with the US cable giant - Time Warner Cable - and through this and other deals, a further 10 million homes in the US will have access to BBC World News 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This means by the end of this year we will be available in 25 million homes, including those in most of the major markets - New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston. There is still some way to go before we can say we have reached everyone - but 2012 has been a year of significant breakthroughs for us in the US.

The BBC is already well-known in America through its partnerships with public radio, through the success of our website, and because of our nightly broadcast on public television fronted by Katty Kay. We believe our brand of high-quality, intelligent and non-partisan journalism has something to offer US audiences, and we're determined to make access to our services as simple as possible.

The timing could not be better. We're just a few weeks away from the first broadcasts of BBC World News from our brand new headquarters in central London. Three new studios, a big investment in production and journalism, and working more closely with BBC journalists working in English and 27 other languages - it's more than just a new home, it's a new start. We're delighted to share that even more widely.

Richard Porter is controller of English at BBC Global News

Marking 15 years of the BBC online

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 12:44 UK time, Wednesday, 12 December 2012

This week marks 15 years since BBC Online was born. At about the same time, the BBC's news website also went live. The number of people visiting the news site has grown enormously over the years, and here you can see how traffic has increased, spiking at key news events, and how the appearance of the site's front page has changed over the years too. Meanwhile, for the 15th anniversary, the BBC's Director of Future Media Ralph Rivera has blogged about the significance of BBC Online today and the continuing importance of innovation to the BBC.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

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