Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Who should go (if anybody)?

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 Apr 06, 11:09 AM

UPDATE! Stop voting! Charles Clarke "won".

This is your last chance to vote in the Newsnight straw poll on which of Tony Blair's troubled ministers should resign or be sacked. Click here. I should point out that the latest intel suggests Labour MPs are rallying round Charles Clarke. Also - the internet poll only allows you to choose one!

Guestblog: Will high oil prices delay peak production?

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 Apr 06, 08:30 AM

John Busby, who runs a website with the grand title "The Busby Report: A national plan for survival in the 21st Century" took issue with comments by my colleague Stephanie Flanders on Tuesday's programme. Her thesis was that high oil price will delay the so-called "peak" of production by dragging previously expensive resources like tar sands into the market. He's sent us a detailed contribution on this and, as "peak oil" is a very interesting debate I am pasting his guest contribution below...

Continue reading "Guestblog: Will high oil prices delay peak production?"

A device needed to wipe journalistic brains...

  • Paul Mason
  • 26 Apr 06, 09:36 PM

A nice article in the Slate about how journalists can go about evading justice when the state comes after your notes. I particularly liked this suggestion...

Continue reading "A device needed to wipe journalistic brains..."

Orwellian propaganda on Iran and Venezuela?

  • Paul Mason
  • 26 Apr 06, 11:51 AM

A sharp eared viewer last night took offence to my description of Iran and Venezuela as "America's enemies". But I did not exactly say that. Here's what I said (in a piece giving the political backplot to the $75 oil price). You can also watch it online at

"What’s really spooked the market is global politics, not economics…[I went on to quote Ahmadinejad's speech on oil prices being too low. I continued...] And America’s other big critic, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, threatened that if US attacks Iran oil could reach 100 a barrel. But is the market right to react so violently to the threat of conflict between America and its enemies?"

Here's what Ed Murray wrote to me in response, posted on Medialens...

Continue reading "Orwellian propaganda on Iran and Venezuela?"

Should Medialens be allowed NOT to come on Newsnight?

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 06:54 PM

My editor is involved in a flame war with the guys at Medialens, that very helpfully critical watchdog of media bias. They have been invited to come on Newsnight tonight to talk about the allegation that the mainstream media is stoking up the conditions for an attack on Iran. But they won't come on! To read their reasons vist their website. There is a heated debate on this at the Medialens bulletin board and Idle Scraw cordially invites you to hit the comment button below and join in the debate here as well. Personally I think the way out of the impasse is for the Medialens spokespeople to lay down certain conditions for coming on: all sorts of other people do it and sometimes get away with it! Just a thought....

Upsum 3

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:44 AM

It looks like the rest is going to be about technology and user generated content - and I now have to go off and do my day job. Therefore a quick summary of what the BBC bosses have said this morning... (I will follow it from here on in on the Grauniad's media website)

Continue reading "Upsum 3"

2 and 3: Entertainment and Youth

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:40 AM

Entertainment: bigger, fewer dramas. More emotion. More brave commissioning. "Critical role of talent" is emphasised.
Youth: 12-16 age group to get a new teen brand. Diversity to be taken more seriously. Core TV programming to be pushed towards the youth audience (without of course losing the grandads).

A montage of "approved" Entertainment content is shown

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:36 AM

Little Britain man being sick
Katherine Tate going am I bothered.
Doctor Who being attacked by a wolf
The Apprentice
The Manchester Passion
Last Night of the Proms
A shark eating a seal...

Thommo's big themes: 1. Martini media

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:28 AM

1. Martini media - anytime, anyplace anywhere (and hopefully not as they say in the drinks trade "twopence a bucket". Reinvent BBC website BBC Web 2.0 is the name of the project.
- BBC News to grow beyond its 250m audience. Sounds like a big investment in sport and sports journalism.
- "Mission to educate" - going to be bigger. More Planet Earths.
- Music - one pan-platform music strategy for BBC. Create your own virtual music channel.
- Audiences want more than information and knowledge.
Now Alan Yentob is going to talk about Entertainment...

Upsum 2

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:24 AM

They are going to make fewer but better programmes and they are going to try and engage "low approver audiences" - ie people who dont go ski-ing on a regular basis.

...a guy has leapt onto the stage to talk about 2015

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:15 AM

Content strategy is moving to "on-demand". He is the fourth person on stage so far and none of them has worn a tie. Now they are showing a film with "Roger X" who runs a free content website. Now George Entwistle is on - he used to edit Newsnight and now runs Current Affairs. He is explaining "on demand". Now a radio guy is saying something interesting - on demand will mean live radio is going to decline. Now Emily Bell is on - Guardian Unlimited supremo - saying if the BBC gets this wrong it will disappear.

Heck we are now hearing about metadata! Emily Bell is explaining why archiving is the new accountancy - ie not boring. Entwistle is talking about cross-platform 360 degree commissioning. Roly Keating, my boss's boss, is questioning the 30 and 60 minute slot. A man with very trendy glasses is inveighing against tunnel vision.

Entwistle spells out the new philosophy: for higher impact programmes with the same or fewer resources - make less.

...a vox pop of working class people is shown

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:11 AM

Young man: I watch BBC3 for "Three pints of lager"
Young woman: I've got Sky so I only watch normal TV to watch Eastenders
Young clubber type: The interactive's quite cool... on Sky Digital
(Sound of traditional BBC types leaping from balconies into Wood Lane)

...a marketing bloke takes the stage

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:07 AM

"A rapid move to digital" - most organisations have a revenue challenge, but the BBC faces a relevance challenge. Big social changes across the UK. 1/10 from ethnic backgrounds. Only 21% of homes are from traditional families. Some figures:
1/3 of people feel that the BBC does not make programmes for them.
60% of 16-24 don't watch 3 hours of TV a week.

...Thommo takes the stage

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:01 AM

He is wearing a yellow open necked shirt. Technologies revolutionising everything we do. Big shifts in programme strategy. Not just authority from the BBC is needed - but relevance. We haven't grappled with the creative challenge of digital. (The audience is full of the BBC great and good and the camera keeps cutting to Alan Yentob).

The BBC's "creative future" - live on this blog

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 09:53 AM

You might be interested to know that the BBC bosses are making a big set of announcements about what you'll see on your TV set, computer, iPod and mobile phone in future. They've managed to spin it so that the story about Grandstand being axed is the top line but expect a lot more far reaching stuff than that. I don't usually blog about internal stuff but you lot are paying for this - and it might be the last strategic revamp the BBC goes through before digital communications kill the old idea of "broadcasting" - ie one source of information going to many people at the same time...

Continue reading "The BBC's "creative future" - live on this blog"

£1 a litre - how much of that is political?

  • Paul Mason
  • 24 Apr 06, 01:08 PM

Petrol is already £1 a litre on some British forecourts and the average price could soon (today?) pass £1. Coming out of OPEC right now are various statements from oil ministers that they are not going to raise the 28 million barrels per day ceiling on production. They argue that it is not short supply but demand driven by political instability - notably America's refusal to take off the table the possibility of nuking Iran, Condoleeza Rice's statement that "self defence does not require a UN resolution" in this regard, and Iran's veiled warning that it will take the price a lot higher if sanctions are imposed...

Continue reading "£1 a litre - how much of that is political?"

An uninvited guest on the White House lawn

  • Paul Mason
  • 20 Apr 06, 06:55 PM

I have just done a telephone interview with the lady who was evicted from the White House after heckling Hu Jin Tao, president of the People's Republic of China....

Continue reading "An uninvited guest on the White House lawn"

President Bush wields the knife...

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 Apr 06, 03:13 PM

Here at Newsnight the afternoon has sprung to life as a series of wires with yellow lightning flashes in the heading indicates that George W Bush has begun a reshuffle in the White House. Karl Rove is to "lose his policy role", while press secretary Scott McClellan has resigned. The sphere is already alive with paranoia and schadenfreude. Follow it all on BBCNews24, and have your say by hitting the comment button below.

Who really bought those modernist fitted kitchens?

  • Paul Mason
  • 18 Apr 06, 11:30 AM

When I idly scrawled about the V&A's exhibition of Modernist Design I bumped into a bigger debate sparked by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, who has taken umbrage against tower blocks. I decided to steer clear of that furore and took refuge in the library on my week off. But you can never escape... while researching something totally different I came across the following: In Germany in 1929 a sociologist called Erich Fromm carried out research into social attitudes among manual and white collar workers....

Continue reading "Who really bought those modernist fitted kitchens?"

Some web links on the Iran nuke issue...

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Apr 06, 09:03 AM

There's only one big talking point today: Sy Hersh's story on the alleged consideration of a nuclear attack on Iran. Elsewhere on the web Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University has produced this analysis of how/ why it might happen - or not happen. Meanwhile if you want to follow the Iranian response from the horse's mouth, it is worth checking IRNA every so often.

BAE-Airbus issues go much deeper than jobs

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 Apr 06, 09:24 AM

* From now until after Easter this blog will become more blog-like and less of a DIY newspaper about Bolivia. I am back, my long-form Bolivia stuff goes out on BBC World/N24 on Saturday morning (in that slot I call "hangover TV") and I am on leave for more than a week. I will mostly be round and about the British Library, a prospect which makes me emit that sound Homer Simpson makes when he is given beer. I will keep blogging, but it will be wierd because I might blog about something but someone else will be reporting it on the telly. For example:

Most of the reporting of BAE Systems decision to sell its stake in Airbus to EADS has focused on the jobs issue. This has already elicited strong affirmations that the jobs are safe for the people who make the wings of the A380. But there are bigger things at stake: the future of BAE and the future of British military-industrial strategy (if there is one)....

Continue reading "BAE-Airbus issues go much deeper than jobs"

Forget Evo, Hugo... tonight it is Carlos

  • Paul Mason
  • 6 Apr 06, 06:04 PM

Those of you who have been watching our Latin American season on Newsnight will be pleased to know that world-famous Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta will dance on the Newsnight set. Tune in at 2230.

Designing a new world

  • Paul Mason
  • 6 Apr 06, 10:36 AM

As of today there are two iconic exhibitions to be seen in London that define our relationship with “modernism” in design. One opened this morning at the V&A Museum; the other has been running for some time at a place called Alfie’s Antique Market...

Continue reading "Designing a new world"

Evo and Me: On BBC World at 12.30GMT

  • Paul Mason
  • 5 Apr 06, 11:19 AM

Hey everyone outside the UK. A short version of my report will be on BBC WORLD at 12.30 GMT, and I will be live on set shortly afterwards. Tune in if you are awake! Send me questions quick if you want them answered!

Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace

  • Paul Mason
  • 5 Apr 06, 09:08 AM

An exclusive interview with Bolivian president Evo Morales. Watch tonight on BBC2, 2230 GMT.

Shortly before 5am the military police huddled in the doorways of the Plaza Murillo begin to stir beneath their capes. The door of the presidential palace creaks open and the guards, in scarlet tunics and white webbing, begin a rigmarole of shuffling, stamping and saluting that is the changing of the guard. The police are muscular white guys in camo; the guards are willowy young indigenous kids – the regiment has always recruited from the ‘indios’ for ethnic novelty value. Now, as the MPs strut away, the guards smile nervously at each other from beneath their kepis: then they giggle. It’s still surreal to be guarding one of their own..
“Look,” Evo tells me, after striding into the palace shortly after, “sixty years ago, our grandparents didn’t even have the right to walk into the main square – not even in the gutter. And then we got into parliament – and now we’re here.”

Continue reading "Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace"

My network, right or left

  • Paul Mason
  • 4 Apr 06, 01:58 PM

A brilliant article today on Slate, by ex-CNN journalist Michael Kinsley. Noting the transformation of US telly journo Lou Dobbs from someone who does mild interviews with business chief execs into the American equivalent of Richard Littlejohn, Kinsley part laments and part explains why opinion journalism is taking over cable TV in the USA...

Continue reading "My network, right or left"

Mergers (and regulation) create value shock!

  • Paul Mason
  • 3 Apr 06, 11:10 AM

With Lucent and Alcatel tying the knot today, in just the latest of the mega-takeovers there are a lot of people here in the world of cuff-links and Crystal (business I mean, not Newsnight) musing about how much good takeovers actually do. Quite a lot, says Scott Moeller, and he should know.

First, though a duffer's guide: a merger is where two companies merge; an acquisition is where one buys the other. Together they are known as "M&A" and there are whole swathes of city people who specialise in making money from the transaction. Here's where the scepticism comes in...

Continue reading "Mergers (and regulation) create value shock!"

Carlos, Ernesto and Che...

  • Paul Mason
  • 2 Apr 06, 05:14 PM

Here's the script of my FOOC. If you have been following this blog you will have read bits of this before. If you want to listen online click here. There's interesting stuff about the Chinese and Lula too, plus Charles Taylor's extradition from Nigeria and mobile phones in the Phillippines. And don't forget to make a date with Newsnight tomorrow to see if our live broadcast from Lima comes off, and see my colleague Greg Palast's interview with Hugo Chavez.


I had come to El Alto to meet, well, I had better call him Carlos since that is the alias he gave me.

Carlos is an Aymara, one of the indigenous ethnic groups that make up 65% of the population in Bolivia.

And he is a revolutionary - one of the people who ripped up paving stones and threw dynamite to overthrow two presidents in two years....

Continue reading "Carlos, Ernesto and Che..."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites