Archives for February 2011

Libya: How authorities have blocked the story

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Rajan Datar | 17:52 UK time, Friday, 25 February 2011

Now in recent weeks on Over to You we’ve talked about the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, where both social and mainstream media enabled protestors to co-ordinate their movements and the rest of the world to witness the rapidly changing political landscapes.

Libyan anti-regime demonstrators gesture at a burnt police station in the eastern city of Tobruk. Picture: AFP/Getty

But in Libya the story has been very different. From the outset, Colonel Gaddafi’s government had a total ban on foreign journalists and even labeled those who got into the country as outlaws. The government also shut off the internet and some phone lines. So unlike the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the global media has been left with very little to report.

At the time of writing, the situation in Libya is changing very quickly – in the programme we asked how have the authorities in Libya tried to control the story? And what exactly is being reported in Libya itself? To explore these questions I was joined from the BBC’s Monitoring Service by Abdallah Al Salmi who’s been watching and listening.

Meanwhile, as the BBC’s Serbian, Albanian, Macedonian and Portuguese for Africa sections all bid their farewells, I asked Liliane Landor, the World Service’s Controller Languages, what function the remaining services will have in the future?

The Over To You postbag has had plenty of replies from you after last week’s item looking at the scrapping of medium wave in Europe. Some listeners are frustrated that they’ll lose the World Service in their cars or in parts of the house where they don’t have an internet connection.

Others voiced their concern that the cuts would lead to the World Service eventually becoming little more than a rolling news service; and there was also a reminder of the importance of the World Service in understanding international relations.

Keep your emails and phone calls coming, we’re here to reflect your views.


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).


Middle East unrest: Getting through despite jamming in Iran

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Rajan Datar | 12:33 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

This week on Over To You with continuing unrest across the Arab world in Bahrain, Yemen and Libya – the role of the media is under particular scrutiny by governments across the Middle East, wary of independent reporting.

Viewers of BBC Persian in Iran will know that their programmes have been disrupted apparently due to jamming by the Iranian government.

The global media faces many restrictions when operating in Iran. Picture: Reuters

The Iranian authorities are thought to have acted because of the BBC’s live coverage of the Egyptian uprising. Since the jamming started, the television feeds have also been broadcast on shortwave radio which can still be heard in Iran.

It’s not the first time that BBC Persian has been interfered with – it happened during the June 2009 protests in Tehran too.

I spoke to Steve Metcalf, a media analyst at BBC Monitoring, and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Deputy Head of Planning at BBC Persian, about the jamming.

The discussion highlights the value of shortwave broadcasts of BBC Persian in Iran – and it is the importance to many of you listening to World Service English on both shortwave and mediumwave that has dominated Over To You’s inbox this week.

Especially concerned are European listeners whose service on mediumwave is ending at the end of March.

We asked listener Heide Unteregge from Dusseldorf in Germany to put your points to the man in charge – Jim Egan, the BBC’s Director of Strategy and Distribution.

Meanwhile, after last week’s discussion about the impending programme cuts to the English Service many of you got in touch with us to add your voices to the sense of loss and disappointment about the ending of programmes like The Interview, UK Politics and Europe Today.

But it’s the axing of World of Music that has provoked the greatest reaction.

Kathleen O’Neill, a regular UK listener asked us to pass on this thought about the World Service to the Director General. It’s a quotation from the American writer Erica Jong.

"Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.”

Kathleen herself had this to say:

Please do not make any more cuts to our beloved World Service.

For many of us it is an education, it entertains us, it acts as a friend and a teacher. It provides us with knowledge to help us attempt to be more worldly wise.

It is no exaggeration to say that it goes some way to encourge world peace, unlike much of the media which encourages inward-looking ignorance and prejudice.

Keep your emails and calls 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).

Your unique perspectives on the future of the World Service

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Rajan Datar | 14:57 UK time, Friday, 11 February 2011

We’ve talked a lot on Over To You about the effects of the recently announced cuts on the World Service and heard from many of you about your fears for the future of the service.

Top of your agenda is the loss of much loved and respected programmes like Politics UK, Europe Today, The Interview and World of Music which come to an end in April.

There’s no doubt of the depth of feeling for the World Service from listeners around the world about the changes that are being introduced by the BBC as a result of cuts in public spending.

So we asked three listeners - Sundeep Beedy from Poonai, India, Larry Cohen who’s based in Upstate New York, and Rachel Mikos who listens in from the Czech Republic - to give us their unique perspectives on their relationship with the World Service.

And I met Richard Porter, acting controller English Global News, to hear more about the changes and the thinking behind them.

Away from the BBC, as the protests in Egypt enter their third week, news editors around the world must have been wondering just how long their coverage of the situation there will be needed.

Last year we discussed the cost of the commitment to the Chilean miners’ story that went on for months until the final and much watched rescue.

But with a political story like Egypt where the foreign media is said to have played a significant role in informing the protestors - how committed should international news channels like the BBC be?

I talk to Jon Williams , the BBC’s world news editor about how he approached an open-ended story like the Egyptian uprising.

What do you think of the coverage? Keep your emails and phone calls 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).


Listeners 'dismayed' at cuts to World Service

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Rajan Datar | 15:10 UK time, Friday, 4 February 2011

This week on Over to You I’ve been hearing from World Service listeners about their reactions to the wide-ranging cuts which were announced last week.

The cuts are required to meet cash savings of 20 per cent over the next three years and mean 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.

Director of BBC Global News Peter Horrocks announced the changes last week. Picture: Getty Images

On Over to You last week Global News Director Peter Horrocks told me that he very much regretted the loss of an estimated 30 million listeners because of the savings.

A typical reaction came from Victoria Pritchard who contacted us to say that she is dismayed at the proposed cuts to the BBC World Service because she enjoys all aspects of the radio – which she finds far more varied than television.

In particular Victoria said, the World Service give us a global view of politics, the arts, current affairs etc with voices from far flung parts of the globe.

She says “They enrich our lives for the knowing. Please reconsider. The World Service is a voice for many people in many places.”

Jerome Wynter contacted us to express sorrow that the BBC’s Caribbean programmes are to close.

“I'm working here in the US, and my nephew who visited for about two weeks last summer, listened - for every day that he was here - to the BBC's Caribbean Service! Antiguans, and I'm sure every West Indian, listened avidly to the BBC; it was one of the biggest wireless forms of education in the region.”

Rita Suksenna from Chandagar in India and Bob Darnell from Perth in Western Australia are bitterly disappointed about the axing of Politics UK.

Bob says “I would have thought that the most important job of the BBC World Service would be to inform the rest of the world about what is going on in the UK.

"Instead of this you appear to be totally obsessed with Islam, Africa and the Middle East. It seems that almost every programme I hear is dominated by these topics and there is comparatively very little on life in Britain and Europe.”

One of the recurring concerns you had following last week’s interview with Peter Horrocks is the loss of short wave transmissions to Russia and in particular, China.

Listeners pointed out that listening on line is a painful experience because the there is insufficient bandwidth for international online traffic, internet connection is still very expensive in China, where internet connection is also liable to be shut down on some occasions.

We asked listener Keith Perron who contacted us from Taipei to join the Head of BBC Chinese, Raymond Li to discuss the changes to the BBC’s output in China.

Finally with global journalists reporting around the clock from Cairo’s Tahrir Square the mass media’s coverage of the protests in Egypt has been extensive to say the least.

But much like those in Tunisia, the protests were driven by social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, so I spoke to Mohammed Shukri, a Middle East analyst from the BBC’s Monitoring service, about the role social media has played in the uprising.

Keep your emails and calls 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).


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