BBC World Service Launch BBC Media Player
  • Help
  • Text only
Radio home
World Service
Programmes
Radio Schedules
Languages
Learning English
 
World News
 
Africa
 
Americas
 
Asia-Pacific
 
Europe
 
Middle East
 
South Asia
 
UK
 
Business
 
Health
 
Science/Nature
 
Technology
 
Entertainment
 
Have Your Say
 
Country Profiles
 
In Depth
 
---------------
 
RELATED SITES
 
WEATHER
 
SPORT
 
 
Last updated: 24 January, 2007 - Published 15:04 GMT
 
Email a friend Printable version
Gorbachev listens while being held captive
 
Mikhail gorbachev arriving in moscow after coup failure
The BBC's coverage won the President’s Prize, Prix Italia awards

"The BBC sounded the best" was how the former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev described his radio listening during the August 1991 coup in which opponents of his reforms took him prisoner.

Mr Gorbachev was held for three days in a country house in the Crimea, and his only contact with the outside world was listening to foreign radio broadcasts on an old radio he found.

Speaking after the coup ended, Mr Gorbachev’s praise seemed like a triumph of BBC journalism over the rest of the world.

The BBC enjoyed the publicity, and quickly took out a newspaper advertisement showing a photograph of the president at his desk and the words: "When you need to know what’s going on in the world."

A technical interpretation?

A former BBC newsroom journalist then spoilt the celebrations by writing to the staff newspaper Ariel: "Before this tribute becomes enshrined in BBC mythology perhaps you could ask Monitoring to tell us exactly what Gorbachev said. Just in the interests of impartial reporting."

The BBC’s Monitoring Service supplied the answer. Mr Gorbachev had been talking about how his guards had rigged up an aerial to receive foreign radio broadcasts and "The BBC sounded best."

John Tusa, the Managing Director of the BBC World Service rejects that technical interpretation.

In his book A World in Your Ear he recalls the news conference at which Mr Gorbachev made his remarks: "It was clear from the laughter and applause from the international press that greeted his remarks that they all took it as I believe it was meant - as a tribute both to the BBC Russian Service’s journalism, as well as their audibility."

Major support

Tusa says that at the same news conference, the President asked where the BBC correspondent was "…and when it turned out he was not present - he was probably monitoring it on TV in the BBC office - Gorbachev said: 'Never mind. The BBC knows everything already.'"

Whatever the interpretation put on Mr Gorbachev’s comments, there was undoubted praise from another national leader: the British Prime Minister John Major wrote to praise the "speed and effectiveness" of the BBC’s work.

And the output won the BBC the President’s Prize at the Prix Italia awards.

 
 
1932-200775 years - BBC World Service
BBC World Service celebrates its 75th year of broadcasting
 
 
World Service 70th HIV/Aids convertAn In-depth look
Find out about the stories that shook the World Service
 
 
BBC RELATED LINKS
 
Email a friend Printable version
 
SERVICES About Us | FAQs | Feedback | Daily Email | Desktop tools | Mobile | Podcasting | Email Network
 
BBC Copyright Logo
 
^^ Back to top
 
  BBC News >> | BBC Sport >> | BBC Weather >> | Learning English >>
BBC Monitoring >> | BBC World Service Trust >>
  Help | Site Map | Privacy