Archives for March 2011

After 72 years, the Caribbean Service says goodbye

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Rajan Datar | 16:58 UK time, Friday, 25 March 2011

It’s been a momentous and for some people heartbreaking few weeks as the Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian languages as well as the English for the Caribbean regional service made their final broadcasts.

They have gone as part of the World Service’s plans to meet the 16 percent savings target required by the UK Government’s Spending Review.

A discussion on the BBC Caribbean Service between presenter John Arlott and author C.L.R. James, taken in 1964.

The Caribbean service has along and distinguished history dating back to the start of the Second World War.

To say goodbye to this much loved institution I met its head Debbie Ransome.

Debbie joined the World Service in London in 1991, joining from Radio Trinidad – she brought with her some of her favourite moments, and I asked her what she feels has been the Caribbean services biggest contribution.

The Caribbean was one of five language services, which have said their final goodbyes. We also spoke to the heads of the other four the Macedonian service; the Serbia service; the Albanian service and the Portuguese in Africa Service.

It’s another closure which is still dominating our postbag – listeners’ reactions in Europe to the ending of the 648 Medium Wave service demonstrate the extent to which the service has been a part of their lives.

Listeners are also exploring other ways to receive the World Service in place of Medium Wave including internet radio and satellite reception.

We at Over To You are not immune to the cuts and from next week we will be shorter, at just under ten minutes, but we will still be packing just as powerful a punch, we hope.

And that depends on you telling us what you think about the World Service, so keep the 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).

Saying goodbye to The Interview

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Rajan Datar | 16:35 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

Another week and more farewells to old favourites.

Is the loss of The Interview programme going to leave an irreplaceable gap in the World Service schedules? Many of you think so - in this week's show, we talk to the producer of the programme.

It is striking from your emails how much respect you have for The Interview and its presenters Owen Bennett-Jones (pictured) and Carrie Gracie.


Robin Russ was one of a number of listeners who contacted us writing from Japan to explain why he values the programme so highly.

"Where else can I go to find the truth, where is another source that puts both sides on the air and leaves it to the listener to decide which one to weigh in on? Where else is truly World news covered?"

And he added: "Aside from information, I'm going to miss appreciating the skills of Owen Bennett Jones. He should be a required course in journalistic studies throughout the world."

And in addition to the emails we have received, listeners have also sent their comments to the programme itself, so when I met The Interview's producer Annette McKenzie she was very grateful for the kind comments that have been made about her programme. I asked her to recall some highlights from the programme, and she picked out two interviews for two very different reasons.

The first one by Owen Bennett-Jones who recalled the first time he met the Rev. Ian Paisley and the second was by Carrie Gracie who was given some impromptu fashion advice from designer Vivienne Westwood.

Also in this week's programme we look at the latest changes to science programmes on the World Service. Steve Titherington, the senior commissioning editor Global News, explains the thinking behind the changes to the schedule, and how they are intended to give science a more prominent place.

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).

'Alternative' funding for the Hindi Service

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Rajan Datar | 10:38 UK time, Friday, 11 March 2011

One of the BBC’s foreign language services due for closure is the Hindi Service which broadcasts to around 11 million people in India.

It is particularly important to people who live in rural areas who don’t have access to television and where literacy levels mean they do not read newspapers.


Cuts to the BBC World Service announced by head of Global News Peter Horrocks had put the Hindi Service at risk. Picture: Getty


This week, the BBC announced that it had been approached by a number of commercial parties with alternative funding proposals. And In order to explore these proposals further, BBC World Service has decided to keep a one hour evening news and current affairs broadcast in Hindi for an interim period while discussions take place.

Amit Baruah is the Head of the Hindi Service joined me to explain this good news and talk about whether it points to a permanent solution.

And funding the World Service is very much on the minds of listeners who contacted Over to You this week, particularly with the closure of 648 Mediumwave service to western Europe.

Many of listeners are based in Europe like Marc Smets Deinze from Brussels who wrote: "I’ve often regarded these transmissions as a generous present, and pondered the possibility that the situation might not last forever."

So I’ve been thinking for some weeks along the lines of the suggestions made by some listeners in the latest Over to You.

Marc wondered whether a financial contribution from a large enough group of listeners would be an adequate solution to the problem.

We decide to explore the question of funding options and I discussed ideas with two of our listeners -whether sponsorship by large corporations could solve the problem, or if contributions by individuals into a charity could be a way of providing funding.

Meanwhile, as the uprisings continue across the Arab world, inspired many say, by media sources ranging from Al Jazeera and Facebook, it is no coincidence that repressive regimes like China are getting edgy.

When the BBC’s man in Beijing, Damian Grammaticas, and his team went to cover a protest in the capital dubbed the Jasmine Uprising, he found that the Chinese authorities did not want the foreign media present and brought in some heavies to make their message clear. I spoke to Damian about his experience and what prompted it.

If you have views on what you hear on the World Service, we’d love to hear from you, so please 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).


Libya: Rising above attempts to manipulate the media

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Rajan Datar | 18:13 UK time, Friday, 4 March 2011

Last weekend, journalists from around the world were invited on an escorted tour of Tripoli by the Libyan government.

The government’s aim was to show the world that the capital was quiet and that Colonel Gaddafi was still in control.

The journalists were taken around the region in a convoy of minibuses and shown only the areas that Gaddafi’s government wanted them to see.


The BBC's Jeremy Bowen meeting Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli


Some correspondents, including the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, then did venture out to witness rebellions on the outskirts of the city for himself.

Then, on Monday, a group of Western reporters including Bowen took part in an interview with Gaddafi himself in a restaurant overlooking the sea.

Gaddafi denied that anti-government protests were happening in the area, and – even when Bowen challenged him - insisted that all the people of Libya still loved him.

So in the face of such contradictory accounts and attempted manipulation of the media - how do reporters on the ground and news producers back at HQ ensure that their reports rise above any deliberate bias?

And, with the increasing use of footage filmed on mobile phones by civilians on the ground, how can news editors ensure that what they’re showing is completely truthful?

On this week's Over To You, I discuss the challenges of balancing the pressures to be first with the news, and maintain editorial independence with the Editor of Newshour, Jon Zilka.

The changes to the World Service which have been the subject of much of your mail, will also spell the expansion of some programmes to fill a new cross-platform remit.

World Have Your Say re-launched its daily 3pm radio edition last month, and will see a new daily midday edition launch from the end of March, but radio is just the start – last month the show debuted on television with the first of a new weekly edition on BBC World News; and, of course, the programme’s online offering is being re-thought too.

I found out how these programme’s editor Mark Sandell and presenter Ros Atkins have set about making these changes.

Meanwhile this week’s inbox received more emails about the end of medium wave broadcasts in Europe, but the conversation has also now moved on to questions of what could be done to save the transmissions.

Here’s a couple of suggestions from listeners. This idea came from from Huw James in the US:

I listen to one hour of the BBC world service on public radio in the US. For this service I donate $10.00 per month to a US public radio station. I listen to the World Service Radio 4, Radio 7 and Radio Wales via the internet on the weekend. For this I would gladly contribute $10.00-$20.00 per month.

And this from Neils Roling in the Netherlands:

I believe people in Europe who need easy access to BBC World are willing to pay at least € 100 per year for the privilege of listening to 648 every day. After all, we pay € 5 for a glossy magazine on which we spend a few hours a month. Before closing it down, please try to make 648 a self-funding proposition.

What do you think? 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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