Connecting with a world audience
29 April 2003
AIB Global Media Business Conference 2003
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ladies and gentlemen - thank you Nick for your introduction, and thank
you Simon for setting the scene for today's session.
comes at a momentous time for all of us involved in international broadcasting.
the war in Iraq, the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime and its aftermath
have been uppermost in everyone's mind in recent weeks.
news services have never been more prominent or important.
the war has demonstrated that while the world may be connected technologically,
it is far from connected in terms of mutual understanding.
world is increasingly interdependent, yet increasingly mistrustful and
It is a
world that is often gravely lacking in understanding and tolerance.
a world that is awash with information, yet ignorance and propaganda
a world in which issues are more complex but news coverage is often
call it a disconnected world in a world of globalisation.
organisations will be tempted to play to this sense of disconnection
that reinforce a particular point of view may win audiences - but they
do not necessarily serve those audiences well.
the challenge for international broadcasters is to provide trusted,
reliable information, to make sense of this complex, confusing and contradictory
world, and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas.
best, international broadcasting has the potential to foster understanding
and establish a genuine dialogue across cultural, linguistic and national
has never been a more important time to connect with our audiences and
encourage them to connect with each other.
is no easy job.
broadcasters, our world is changing faster than ever, and our markets
are more competitive every day.
broadcasting organisation represented at this conference will have its
own strategy for dealing with these challenges.
BBC, we have recently established a new Global News Division, bringing
together BBC World Television, BBC World Service radio and our international-facing
online news sites, to provide a more integrated and cohesive offer to
different audience groups in different markets around the world.
that this move will help us to connect with our audiences even more
next few minutes, I would like to consider some of the issues we all
start with Iraq.
the war and now its aftermath dominate our thinking at this time.
few weeks have been truly remarkable for us at the BBC.
we were providing a lifeline service of trusted information to the Iraqi
people through the BBC Arabic Service, whilst at the same time coalition
forces were tuning in to the World Service in English on the battlefield
and as they advanced to Baghdad and meanwhile at the Central Command
in Doha they were watching BBC World.
quite a role and quite a responsibility.
the war, we reported every day on the toll of dead and wounded, and
all too often, to our sorrow and dismay, that included broadcasters
international broadcasting conference such as today's, we remember colleagues
who were killed and injured in this war, and we think especially of
of Argentine camerawoman Veronica Cabrera two weeks ago brought the
death toll among broadcasters and journalists to 14.
BBC, we are saddened by the deaths of our cameraman, Kaveh Golestan,
and Kurdish translator, Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed.
world affairs correspondent John Simpson, who narrowly escaped serious
injury himself, was among those who paid tribute to both men.
known Kaveh since 1988 when he had reported on Saddam Hussein's use
of poison gas against the Kurds.
the point that it is not always easy for an Iranian to work for the
BBC in Iran, as Kaveh did, nor to operate in wartime Iraq independently
of coalition forces.
can never be entirely safe but we must do all we can to minimise the
we must all ensure that our journalists and broadcasting teams undergo
hostile environment safety training as a matter of course.
is not just a concern in war zones, as the International Federation
of Journalists has pointed out.
all over the world, journalists have been imprisoned, beaten up, expelled
has highlighted another worrying trend - specific targeting of correspondents.
context, we must support our journalists and clearly uphold their right
to do their job without fear or intimidation.
be equally robust in defending editorial freedom and our independence.
most conflicts, news organisations ran into criticism from all sides
in this war.
we were not devoting enough time to the deaths of Iraqi civilians, it
was argued - or we were giving wall-to-wall coverage to anti-war demonstrations.
early stages of the war, some western critics rounded on the media for
reporting from behind so-called 'enemy lines' in Baghdad.
networks ignored huge anti-war protests taking place in central New
York before the war. It was thought to be unpatriotic.
was Al Jazeera's decision to screen explicit footage of British and
American prisoners, broadcast around the world.
was variously accused of following a script written by the White House
and Downing Street, or fostering sympathy for Saddam Hussein.
constituencies often expect the BBC to support their cause.
the reason we have been so successful over generations is that we are
not an arm of the state. Even at times of crisis, our first duty must
be to our audiences.
what to show, and what not to show, we must be guided by their needs
reporting cannot be confined to facilities provided by just one side
or the other. A range of voices is critical.
has been an important and remarkable development in reporting this war.
Vivid reportage. Extraordinary access to the battlefield. A real sense
of being there.
contributed graphic and immediate coverage, and it allowed more freedom
than we might have expected.
the powerful images could never provide a full picture - and that was
always the big challenge for us, to ensure these reports were placed
in their proper context.
BBC's defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus describes it, "it was
a war seen through several keyholes". Putting together the big
picture as accurately and effectively as possible proved a challenging
task but a really important one.
is to make that picture as broad as possible, as balanced and accurate
as we can make it, and with strong context and analysis so that audiences
can understand what is happening and make up their own minds.
first with the news is not everything. Indeed, it is more important
to be 'second and right' than first and wrong.
is a prime concern at the BBC, and our international news programmes
have to be especially careful and cautious because so many of our audiences
look to us to find out whether what others are saying is true.
all make mistakes, and none of us can pretend to be above reproach simply
because we are public service broadcasters.
our credibility is vital to help with the reconstruction of an independent
and pluralistic media in post-war Iraq.
certainly been true in Afghanistan, where for years people have relied
on international broadcasters such as BBC World Service for accurate
news of what was happening.
organisations are giving practical assistance to Afghan journalists
and broadcasters through training and advice.
them is the BBC World Service Trust, which was set up to promote development
through the media.
government has pledged support for a declaration recognising that new
laws must protect and promote the media.
acknowledges the media's importance in making government open, transparent
and accountable, and giving a voice to all members of society.
committed to helping to provide the same support in Iraq.
it is still too early to draw definitive conclusions from the war.
undoubtedly shown why international news broadcasting per se is more
important today than ever.
also shown how rapidly the whole nature of international broadcasting
values of trust, independence, impartiality and being audience focused
a disconnected world, we must recognise that perspectives can be radically
different between different countries and cultures.
perceptions of impartiality.
believe to be impartial reporting may be regarded quite differently
by some of our audiences.
impartial to one listener here in London may appear blatant bias to
another listener say in Cairo.
firmly committed in everything we do to impartiality is a challenge
for all international broadcasters.
be constantly vigilant about the tone and range of voice presented in
our news programmes.
be vigilant about our use of language. Unlike many US broadcasters,
the BBC did not routinely describe coalition forces as 'liberators'.
also ensure that editorial independence from government is clear and
transparent. We must be fair and balanced - but as Greg Dyke, the BBC
Director-General, emphasised last
week in a speech, reporting dissent is an important requirement
for an impartial broadcaster.
never be afraid of asking tough questions of those in power.
the war, it would have been all too easy to stick to a formula of Bush
and Blair statements and live press briefings with Tommy Franks, followed
by a clip of an Iraqi minister.
However, not many listeners in Cairo or Amman would have thought that
sounded impartial or balanced, and they would have been right.
wouldn't have presented a full, comprehensive and accurate picture.
on the professionalism and experience of our journalists to reconcile
these differences and continuously reflect the full spectrum of debate.
about it and discuss it all the time. During the war, I met with Greg
Dyke and senior editors every day to reflect on our coverage and discuss
these decisions on an ongoing basis.
international broadcasters, we are fortunate in having journalists from
all over the world working for us. They contribute a special insight
into our audiences that informs all our news programmes.
BBC, the experience and insight of our Arabic Service colleagues and
other regional broadcasters has been of immense importance during the
that we are able to present a broad world perspective on air - in English
and our 42 language services.
our Arabic News Editor, for example, who first explained the significance
of a shoe being used to beat the picture of Saddam Hussein.
different perspectives to our Arabic listeners under Saddam meant much
more than reporting official lines.
and debates have chronicled the history of Iraq and explained the background
to the regime.
with prominent opposition figures have formed part of a broad range
listeners about the nature of the regime and its record of brutal suppression.
also highlighted the anger and concern felt across the Arab world at
fact that we have the largest network of broadcasting correspondents
rooted across the whole world means we are committed to eyewitness reportage,
a global agenda and a truly international perspective.
broadcasting can also respond to the humanitarian dimension of war and
so many previous conflicts, a practical form of support that we can
give in this area is the 'lifeline' broadcast.
Arabic Service has just launched a special daily programme to do just
At a time
when many families have been divided, it gives Iraqi people around the
world, and within Iraq itself, the opportunity to make contact with
relatives and friends.
new technology, whether it is via satellite or on the internet, enables
us to make these global connections more effectively than ever before.
international broadcasting, combining radio, television and online services,
can reach audiences anywhere in the world at a time when news consumption
is fragmenting and diversifying.
that, new technology can provide an immediate, informative, intelligent,
interactive platform for discussion and debate.
with the days of linear, direct 'push' broadcasting is dramatic.
international broadcasting is now also very much a two-way dialogue
of interactivity - a global arena for debate and exchange of views.
Arabic Service's new daily debate programme (Nuqtat
Hiwar) has been a very relevant case in point.
a forum for radio listeners and online users to exchange opinions across
the Arab world, and for Arabic speakers anywhere around the world to
global figures, local politicians and ordinary Arabs can all join in.
has been receiving thousands of emails each day since its launch in
that this type of debate can really help to achieve greater understanding,
openness and dialogue.
text messaging has also given listeners a new voice.
to World Service English programmes grew ten-fold following the outbreak
informs programme making and creates new opportunities for interactivity.
way, the war marks another milestone in the history of international
1991 Gulf War was when 24-hour news came to the fore, in 2003, as well
as embedded correspondents in the field, it has been the emergence of
interactive debate utilising the net.
services as a whole have gone from strength to strength.
for our online services has broken all previous records, demonstrating
the appetite for news and analysis at a time of such uncertainty.
also a wish to take part in dialogue and debate. Our daily interactive
forums generated more than 350,000 e-mails throughout the conflict.
why online investment, complementing radio and television, continues
to be so important.
to the BBC Arabic site went up by 150 per cent following the start of
received more than 15 million page impressions in March, compared with
6 million in February.
figures indicate there were more than 220 million page impressions to
the BBC's international news sites in March.
an increase of 100 million in a month and a record - far exceeding the
surge in traffic experienced immediately after September 11th, 18 months
demand leapt to over one million users on the day war started, of which
more than 350,000 were in Arabic.
to the special international-versioned news site in English almost doubled
last month to 130 million page impressions, up from 72 million.
were comparable increases in other languages such as Persian and Spanish.
broadcasters will have seen take-up of their services rise during the
war but none of us should be complacent.
for audiences is fierce.
are fragmenting as they gain access to more and more choice.
greater choice and audience volatility is fuelled by rapidly changing
all seen how short wave audiences swiftly decline when people can choose
FM or satellite TV instead.
television reach, CNN remains the clear market leader but BBC World
has made big gains in reach in the past two years.
now available in 255 million homes, in more than 100 million of them
24 hours a day. Eighty million households were added after the Iraq
war broke out through terrestrial broadcasters taking BBC World's rolling
competition is strengthening from international players such as Al Jazeera
across the Middle East and the Gulf and new players such as Al Arabia.
the Americans are investing heavily in the Middle East, South West Asia
internet, all major news broadcasters are increasing their services,
and news media aggregators like Yahoo, Google News and AOL are providing
new alternative sources.
markets around the world offer different sets of challenges.
the United States is clearly an advanced media market.
is particularly strong competition for decision makers and cosmopolitan
audiences from America's 24-hour cable news networks, the core TV networks
and hundreds of speech-based radio stations.
are now 160 million internet users in the US, and the number of mobile
users for news is growing rapidly.
there is an increasing demand for BBC news output across America.
we now have our highest audience ever, with nearly four million listening
on US Public Radio.
four opinion formers in Washington, New York and Boston listen to the
BBC World Service each week.
nearly a million viewers are watching BBC World via PBS.
is now available in 86% of US TV households. Since the outbreak of war
in Iraq, evening network news viewership is up 28% overall, and there
has been a 33% increase for the six o'clock bulletin on WNET.
of our online traffic is from the US. The New York Times recently highlighted
we are the third most used news website in the States.
Schonfeld, a co-founder of CNN paid us this tribute: "I find myself
watching BBC all the time," he said. "They are the only people
who on a regular basis organise their material well enough so you get
a feeling you know what's going on."
critics have praised BBC World for its 'refreshingly international perspective'.
Clearly there is a real appetite for the BBC's balanced, objective,
in India, the market is extremely challenging for international broadcasters
and the picture is changing very fast.
radio listening has rapidly lost ground to TV, and new local players
have transformed the landscape of TV news.
local commercial stations on FM in major cities are still not allowed
to rebroadcast international news programmes.
they cannot broadcast any news.
seems very little prospect of that regulatory ban being lifted in the
very near future, restricting our own opportunities to rebroadcast our
services in languages such as Hindi, as well as English.
inevitably lost radio audiences in a market where listening as a whole
has been collapsing, especially on short wave. Less than one in four
Indians are now listening to any radio.
In a country
where TV reach has increased from 20% to 70% in less than a decade,
TV news is increasingly competitive. Five TV news channels have been
launched in the last few weeks.
BBC World is the international market leader in news in India. Viewership
has doubled since the start of the Iraq war.
we are also establishing our online presence in a market that is growing
rapidly, with one of the fastest growth rates in the world, and is expected
to reach 30 million users by 2004.
media competition is intensifying, with greater choice available through
satellite TV, international radio and online news.
is leading the increase in satellite TV news penetration.
have radically realigned their own output through Radio Sawa, offering
a music-led service with limited news to focus on the burgeoning youth
growing internet investment, with CNN launching its own online Arabic
service to compete with our own and Al Jazeera's offering.
Arabic, our challenge is to remain competitive in the face of all this
increased media choice.
offer a 24 hour service available on radio and the internet, which switched
over to continuous news and analysis at the start of the Iraq war.
have been presented from both London and our new production centre in
of regulatory restrictions, we do not yet have FM access in the capital.
the war in Iraq has been another reminder why short wave and medium
wave remain so important in the region as a whole.
supplies failed in Baghdad and Basra, it was battery powered radios
that have enabled people to go on receiving reliable, trusted information
from the BBC.
there's Afghanistan, where the dominant position of international broadcasters
is now set to change.
media are gradually re-emerging.
partners such as the BBC World Service Trust are helping with media
reconstruction, as I mentioned earlier.
stage a comeback in the medium term, but radio will remain the major
independent audience research was carried out in Kabul following the
launch of the BBC's FM transmissions last year.
the massive impact currently of the BBC's Pashto and Persian services.
have an 82% weekly reach in Kabul, the highest of any international
broadcaster in the capital, a majority of whom are already listening
of eight out of ten is probably the highest reach of any international
broadcaster anywhere in the world.
traffic from Afghanistan obviously is still low - but it is particularly
important for diaspora Persian and Pashto audiences around the world.
on TV, BBC World has built up a weekly reach of more than 10% in Kabul
are four very different markets - four very different challenges.
we connect with target audiences in these areas, making the best use
of the editorial resources and relevant technology available to us?
all, we believe that radio, television and online services must work
together more effectively.
BBC, a more co-ordinated global news strategy will enable us to present
a more united and cohesive offer to audiences around the world.
As I mentioned
earlier, we have brought together BBC World Television, BBC World Service
radio and the BBC's international-facing online services in a single
Global News Division.
funded television now joins publicly funded radio for the first time.
respect the separate funding streams within a fair trading framework
so that there is no cross-subsidy.
result is a 'one-BBC' global news service to audiences.
commission all the BBC's news services for world markets and ensure
a more unified presence.
shape the BBC's offer based on audience need and media usage, market
allow us to make the most of our editorial potential and strengthen
our brand around the world.
enable us to achieve even greater impact and stand out more clearly
in crowded marketplaces.
be able to promote much more editorial collaboration, and co-ordinate
distribution and marketing activities.
already seeing the results in joint radio, TV and online coverage of
major events such as a high profile Iraq debate at the Davos economic
summit and special tri-media interviews with key figures such as Donald
Rumsfeld during the war.
this Global News Division is my top priority right now.
the aim of being the best known and most respected voice in international
is about reach.
is about reputational standing for trust, objectivity, and impartiality.
surveys in ten areas of the world confirm that the BBC is seen as the
most trusted and objective of all international news broadcasters.
when you consolidate our reach in radio, television and new media, we
are the world's number one international news broadcaster in terms of
for us is to maintain that position and enhance our reputational standing
around the world.
I'd like to end on a personal note.
editor of every international news organisation, a lot has been going
through my mind in recent weeks.
on some of these ideas in this speech.
of establishing a dialogue between different nations and cultures -
of connecting the world in dialogue and understanding as well as technologically.
of defending our editorial freedom and ensuring that we present a full
range of views.
of continually questioning not just those we interview but ourselves
- about our approach to news programmes, and especially how we maintain
an organisational level, the importance of ensuring that radio, television
and online services work together effectively.
all, however, the last few weeks have reminded me of three things.
how much we rely on the professionalism, commitment and courage of our
reporters and programme makers in the field.
talk about connecting with a world audience, they are the people who
make the first and most important connection.
the eyes and ears for our audiences, and it is their skill, their courage
and their professionalism that underpin everything else that we do.
we, and our audiences, owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
we must never compromise on our values - integrity, independence, impartiality,
trust. They must be non-negotiable.
trust is the foundation on which our whole organisation rests.
report truthfully and fairly, and reflect a full range of opinions including
those critical of government. Our first duty is to our audiences.
conclusion is about our responsibility and role as international broadcasters
in a world that is at once globalised and yet, at times, filled with
mistrust, misinformation, oppression, hate and division.
to use our skills to provide trusted, reliable news.
committed to context setting and analysis in an independent and impartial
to be a catalyst for dialogue, debate and mutual understanding.
all of these things, I believe that we can contribute to making the
world a better place.