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Annual Review 2002/2003
A year in review
BBC Monitoring

“Monitoring the world’s media during the Iraq crisis was tougher than it was during the first Gulf War. The range of influential media that needed monitoring was bigger and BBC Monitoring played a more prominent role that led to greater demands,” says Brian Rotheray, Managing Editor, BBC Monitoring Customer Services
The conflict in Iraq presented a huge challenge to BBC Monitoring in its role as an international media watchdog, tracking global broadcasts for stories of impact and significance. Extra staff were brought in to monitor the coverage of the crisis by the world’s media, with Arabic-speaking staff working round the clock.
BBC Monitoring produced special media summaries, providing an overview of all that was happening in the region. It also increased its tracking of new stations broadcasting into Iraq, such as Radio Tikrit. The team was also able to provide feeds from various Iraqi and regional TV stations back to the BBC and government departments.
Staff kept a close watch on the Iraqi media’s reporting of the war, tracking speeches by the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, and his ministers, following the broadcast news reports and assessing the mood of Iraq as conveyed by the media there.
In March 2003, a new Arabic television channel, Al-Alam (The World), suddenly came on air. Based in Tehran and run by IRIB (the Iranian state radio and TV service), it quickly gained viewers in Baghdad. One of the latest 24-hour news channels to appear in the Middle East, Al-Alam’s broadcasts were traced by BBC Monitoring to an area on the Iran-Iraq border.

Today, the impact of world media reporting has never been greater and technological advances mean that reports can be around the world in seconds
As well as informing its customers of what the media in the Arab and Muslim worlds were saying, during this international crisis, BBC Monitoring also maintained its full range of in-depth reporting on other countries and regions of the world, their internal politics and foreign relations.
BBC Monitoring maintained high customer satisfaction ratings. Of those customers surveyed, 35% said the service had improved over the past 12 months, citing its access to key sources, the selection skill of its staff and increased responsiveness as important attributes.
In April 2003, Dr Chris Westcott – formerly Head of New Media at BBC World Service – took over as Director BBC Monitoring, succeeding Andrew Hills. “To capture both the significant content and the powerful impact of the world’s media is a daunting task, but a vital one,” Dr Westcott said of his new role.
Based at Caversham in Berkshire, BBC Monitoring has overseas units in Moscow, Kiev, Baku, Tashkent and Nairobi, and a network of independent contractors. Funded by the Foreign Office, the MoD, the Cabinet Office and BBC World Service, it employs over 500 staff and monitors more than 3,000 radio, TV, press, internet and news agency sources in over 100 languages. It works closely with the US Foreign Broadcasting Information Service (FBIS), the two units sharing newsgathering duties around the world.
Today, the impact of world media reporting has never been greater and technological advances mean that reports can be around the world in seconds. “Increasingly, the media not only reports on world events but reflects international opinion and helps to shape global debate. More than ever before, audiences, newsrooms and government departments rely on BBC Monitoring to tell them what the rest of the world is thinking,” says Dr Westcott.
A year in review
BBC Monitoring
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