Archives for January 2011

Your reaction to BBC World Service budget cuts and closures

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Rajan Datar | 16:46 UK time, Friday, 28 January 2011

Last Wednesday was a painful day for BBC World Service and its 180 million listeners according to its boss Peter Horrocks.

I talked to Peter on Over to You this week to find out what this “fundamental restructure” means in plain language to you the listeners.

A BBC World Service employee leaves flowers for the "death" of the BBC World Service. Picture: Getty Images

I also put your views to him about the cuts which were described as “ daunting” by the BBC and necessitate cash savings of 20 per cent over the next three years.

The World Service’s detailed response to the Government’s Public Spending review necessitates cash savings of 20 per cent over the next three years.

That means the loss of 650 World Service jobs, the closure of five language services and the end of some long running programmes on the English Service.

It amounts to an annual saving of £46m by April 2014, when the BBC World Service will be financed from the domestic UK television licence fee.

Now the BBC admits that audiences will fall by more than 30 million from the current weekly audience of 180 million as a result of the changes this year.

Over to You listeners emailed us with their reactions.

The closure of five language services including the English for the Caribbean regional service prompted an email from Shawn Lebert who was ‘utterly shocked’ to hear that decision.

Others were concerned about more repeats, or even the loss of a service entirely.

Managing these cuts is the unenviable task facing Peter Horrock who has said publicly that these cuts are made reluctantly and that they are very painful.

How will the latest round of cuts affect you? Over to You is your platform to tell us what you think, so send us your emails and comments.

Meanwhile listeners have continued to email Over To You about the countdown to the Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton scheduled for April. In particular they don’t like the trail that has been running on the World Service.

Another point was raised by listener Dr Bello Bella Bitugu who’s originally from Ghana but is now based in Innsbruck in Austria.

He told us he was disturbed by an item asking Kenyan pupils about their suggestion of the wedding dress for the wedding as part of the countdown specials.

He said it reminded him of colonial times when schools in places like Tanganyika as it was called then - were ordered to bombard African pupils with propaganda about the British Royal family.

We asked Dr Bitugu to put his points to Jamie Angus who’s the Senior Commissioner in News Planning at Global News and in charge of planning the royal wedding coverage.

Somehow I don’t think this is the last we’ll be hearing on the subject before the wedding takes place at the end of April.


Rajan Datar is the presenter of Over To You.


Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).





The role of Facebook in Tunisia

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Rajan Datar | 16:24 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

Whenever there is popular unrest in the world, credit is often given to social media like Facebook for enabling the protesters to organize and get themselves heard. The recent turmoil in Tunisia, which ousted the president, seem to be no exception.

In this week's programme, with the help of BBC Monitoring, we look back at the last few weeks in Tunisia. I learnt that for the first ten days of the upheavals, Tunisian media did not report on the events and social media played an important role as a sort of alternative news agency.

Hungary and the EU

Meanwhile in Europe, as Hungary took over presidency of the European Union it also passed a law which has prompted accusations that Viktor Orhan, the country's prime minister, is trying to stifle the press.

The law replaces, which replaces old legislation, is designed to restrict racist and anti-Semitic material, and makes radical changes which have attracted considerable internal criticism. The law is seen at being at odds with the values of other European Union countries, and has put the Hungarian presidency in the spotlight.

So I discussed these issues with Nick Thorpe, the BBC's Hungary correspondent and George Schopflin, the Hungarian MEP and supporter of the law reform.

Wikipedia - and your views on the Royal wedding

Wikipedia turned ten this week, and the World Service has broadcast a documentary on this new media phenomenon - its producer came into the studio to discuss the way it has developed.

Finally, in the postbag listeners let us know what they thought about coverage of the British Royal Wedding in April - in particular, their reactions to the 100 day countdown to the wedding. As one listener said, 'aren't countdown's for moonshots?'

Keep your comments coming.

Rajan Datar is the presenter of Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).

As ever we endeavour to be your ombudsman of the airwaves do keep sending us your comments and emails.

How the BBC coverered the Wikileaks story

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Rajan Datar | 14:53 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

This week on Over to You, as legal proceedings got underway in the UK to decide whether or not to extradite the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden, we hear your judgments on the BBC's coverage of the whole Wikileaks story.

What listeners, viewers and online users think of the Wikileaks story and how the BBC has covered it has been the subject of a recent questionnaire which invited members of the BBC's Global Minds panel to give their views. Global Minds is an online group of more than 10,000 people around the world who discuss the BBC's English-language radio, TV and online output.

Most of those who replied said they had been following the story closely or fairly closely so we wanted to hear more from this group of expert Wikileaks watchers. Interestingly, more Global Minds from in Africa and North America (both 44%) followed the story "very closely" - compared to the rest of the World.

Fifty three percent said they weren't surprised by the revelations, while just over a third said they were slightly surprised" and only 12% said they were very surprised.

Most thought that Wikleaks are doing a good job - with several people making the point that the website is doing the job the mainstream media ought to do but is not. Others were critical of the media saying they were now controlled by power and money.

We invited one of the Global Minds panel to discuss his views on the media and Wikileaks with Simon Cox, presenter of a documentary for Assignment called The Rise and Fall of Wikileaks, which went out earlier this week on the World Service. Their discussion covered several fascinating aspects to the issue, and looked amongst other things at the relationship between Wikileaks and the media.

You can listen to Simon's documentary Assignment The Rise and Fall of Wikileaks by following the link on our webpage. And if you want to join the Global Minds forum go to

Meanwhile in the Over To You in-box, the documentary series, The Foods that Make Billions series presented by Louise Hidalgo has come in for warm praise and some criticism.

Chris Green from Jakarta, Indonesia emailed to say that while the programme on the phenomenal popularity of bottled water raised some interesting points, he was worried that it focused too much on the developed world.

And Donnamarie Leemann, contacted us from Chaux de Fonds in Switzerland, which is a place with plenty of water both in the lakes and in bottles , and she said she was disappointed by the programme.

Following last week's discussion between presenter Peter White and listener Joshua, a fellow blind listener Tolja Karatas emailed from London to say can the BBC please make more programmes to do with people with disabilities?

Finally, our inbox has also been filling up with questions not only about World Service programmes but also with queries about how best to listen to them. Your emails come from as far ranging locations as Uganda, Dubai and Bucharest. We asked Simon Kendall who is the Head of the World Service's Business Development Unit to answer as many of them as possible - you can hear how he did it on this week's programme.

Rajan Datar is the presenter of Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).

As ever we endeavour to be your ombudsman of the airwaves do keep sending us your comments and emails.

The challenges of reporting the story

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Rajan Datar | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 7 January 2011

This week's Over To You returns to a theme of one of our recent programmes about the challenges facing journalists when covering stories in dangerous situations.

At the start of 2011 we have a practical demonstration of this in the unfolding Ivory Coast crisis, a subject which attracted comments from a number of listeners. So to get a real sense of the story as it is happening in Ivory Coast, I spoke to the BBC's John James on the phone from Abidjan and discussed the situation on the ground.

He told me about the precarious and potentially dangerous situations that journalists in the country find themselves including the threats that are being made to journalists. I'm was also joined from Paris by Amboise Pierre, the Head of the Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders, who told us more about the way censorship is being used on journalists in Ivory Coast.

Turning to a particularly interesting programme, I was joined in the studio by Peter White, the BBC's disability correspondent, to discuss the making of his new show Blind Man Roams the Globe. Avid World Service listener Joshua, from Kenya, is also visually handicapped, and wrote to us about the inspirational nature of Peter's show. He and Peter discussed the challenges of travelling whilst blind.

Finally there's a chance to get through a few more of your emails, focusing on how the World Service covered this years Christmas festivities. A topic that seems to have stirred up some strong and passionate opinions.

Thanks for all your emails, and please do keep them coming. We always want to hear your feedback.

Rajan Datar is the presenter of Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).

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