BBC BLOGS - The Editors

Suppressed coverage

Marek Pruszewicz | 17:13 UK time, Monday, 17 March 2008

BBC World started going off air in China last week. It wasn't a sporadic technical fault, but a reaction by the authorities to one particular story - Tibet.

BBC World logoAs a presenter began reading the introduction to a report on events in Tibet, screens in China showing BBC World would suddenly go black. It wasn't consistent - some reports would go out unmolested one hour, only to be taken off air the next. Whenever the channel moved onto other stories, normal service was resumed.

Nevertheless it was clear reporting on the story was incurring the wrath of the censors.

The question for us - how should we react?

Protesters led by Tibetan Budhist monksThe primary story was about events in Tibet. Whether or not BBC World was being blacked out in China would have no impact on how we reported those events - it simply denied Chinese viewers our coverage.

But the reaction of the Chinese authorities was part of the wider story, an attempt to suppress coverage, so we duly reported that too.

The BBC's James Reynolds, who is based in Beijing, came up with a very simple but effective means of showing what was happening.

James filmed himself watching two televisions - one showing BBC World, the other Chinese state television. As BBC World began an introduction on Tibet, that screen duly went black. The Chinese state station continued to broadcast.

Whether our report about BBC World going to black in China also went to black in China I'm afraid I don't know.

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