BBC BLOGS - The Editors

Introducing World Service radio's Newsday

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Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 15:39 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2012

BBC World Service's radio output overnight is familiar to night owls inside the UK who listen on Radio 4 and on DAB, but for our audiences around the world's time zones, the programmes that run between 03:00 and 08:30 serve some very disparate groups of people.

Lerato Mbele and Lawrence Pollard

Newsday presenters Lerato Mbele and Lawrence Pollard

Starting on Monday 23 July there are some big changes to the programmes in this timeslot.

Until now, at these times you would have heard The World Today, and those listening in Africa would hear Network Africa at half-past the hour. Now however, both these programmes are being replaced by the new Newsday programme from World Service Radio, a single global daily news programme with a particular interest in its audiences in Africa.

So why the change? The current listening experience in Africa is far from ideal - two separate programmes with very different editorial takes on the day's news, in separate halves of the hour. We want to offer African audiences a single programme that has international news at its heart, but brings the biggest African stories to the world, and covers the biggest international stories with a particular eye on relevance for African audiences.

We're trying the same thing on BBC World News' new Focus on Africa bulletin which goes out on the channel at 18:30 each day, and on terrestrial partner stations across the continent.

To do this we've brought together the teams from the BBC African Service, and their colleagues in World Service English, along with a presenting team drawn from some of our biggest existing names, and some exciting new talent.

Every day the programme will be co-presented between London and Johannesburg. Lerato Mbele has joined us. Formerly of CNBC and SABC, she's one of southern Africa's best-known broadcasters. Hearing her live from South Africa every morning will help shape a great new sound for the programme, and engage new audiences for the BBC inside Africa on our FM relay stations and our 48 FM partners across the continent.

Listeners around the world can feel confident they'll continue to get the range of news and context around the day's events that they've come to expect. Of course, for the first three weeks of the programme's life, the biggest story is likely to be in London, as the world's attention turns to the Olympics.

So we hope you'll join us. With the team out on location each day, it's the perfect launch pad for the new show. And if things sound a little different to what you've come to expect, I hope you'll feel free to let us know what you think.

Jamie Angus is senior commissioner for BBC Global News.

Extreme weddings

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Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 08:50 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

You've got to hand it to the Tajiks - they certainly aren't worried about "nanny state" criticism:

Bride and groom
"People were getting into debt to afford weddings, now the new law allows only 150 guests to be fed at wedding parties. The celebration cannot last for more than three hours and only one dish is allowed to be served."

That's what Tajik wedding inspector Mahmadrasul told the BBC's Rayhan Demytrie when she travelled to the village of Davlat-Abad, to film a wedding for the BBC's Extreme Weddings day.

And he should know - he stays at the ceremony to make sure there are no transgressions.

There couldn't be a greater contrast with the wedding of Nadini, a well-known singer, and Madura, her businessman sweetheart, attended by the BBC's Charles Haviland in Sri Lanka last weekend. There, hundreds of guests celebrated in a ceremony that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

You can see reports from both these weddings 14 and 15 April, as part of our Extreme World series, where BBC correspondents around the world compare the extremes of any given topic. We've covered hot and cold climates, the rights of women and the best and worst places to die.

And with Britain's royal wedding on the horizon, we wanted to engage our audiences worldwide in a debate about what weddings and the marriage ceremony itself mean to them. So we'll be bringing Rayhan and Charles together to report live on what they've seen.

Although there are great contrasts in the way people celebrate their weddings around the world - whether modest or lavish - we noticed that everywhere you go, people are investing as much as they can possibly afford, and then some more, in their marriage celebration.

It all ties in with the domestic debate in the UK about the scale of the royal wedding - how do the Royal Family negotiate the tricky problem of organising a wedding fit for a prince, in increasingly austere times?

We hope our audiences around the world have some suggestions. And we're asking them and you to contribute pictures and descriptions of the most extraordinary wedding you've ever attended, which we'll be showing on the BBC's royal wedding site.

Just make sure no-one shows Tajikistan's wedding enforcement team - they might not be happy.

Extreme Weddings is on throughout 14 and 15 April on the World Service, BBC World News and the BBC News website.

Jamie Angus is acting head of news, BBC World News.

Euthanasia debate

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Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 17:45 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

How do you like your national debate to be held? It's a nebulous concept often invoked when tricky ethical issues like euthanasia are in the news.

World at One logoOn The World at One in the last two weeks we've had several occasions to ask whether the national debate around euthanasia is being led too much by celebrity endorsements in favour of relaxing the current law.

A week after the suggestion by Martin Amis that "euthanasia booths" should be available on street corners, the news was dominated by the author Terry Pratchett's Richard Dimbleby Lecture which advocated a system of tribunals to remove the fear of prosecution from relatives.

On that day's World at One the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu complained about the debate, saying "I would rather listen to the voices of disabled people than to the voices of celebrities or the voices of 1,000 people in an opinion poll."

Two weeks later, the broadcaster Ray Gosling admitted killing a former lover who was dying from an Aids-related illness and defended his actions in in a series of impassioned interviews.

The MP Brian Iddon told The World at One that Parliament was the right place to set the laws around these questions and that he feared campaigners were trying to change the law in the courts.

His view is shared by Lee Rayfield, the Bishop of Swindon, who told the PM programme later in the afternoon that the celebrity-led discussion excluded the views of possible victims, people who "weren't in control of their lives" and that the concept of "compassion" in the debate had been claimed unfairly by the pro-reform campaign.

The presence of the Church in this debate irks some of our listeners. One asked "why do you feel the need to wheel out these numbskull clerics on any opportunity?"

But there does seem to me to be a relative shortage of prominent secular voices opposing a relaxation of the law. I wonder whether this reflects the fact that Britain's arts and science establishment and our usual commentariat are just more liberal on this issue than the population as a whole.

Or perhaps you'd rather hear more from people experiencing this dilemma for real - either the couple in their 80s who e-mailed us to say they were "disgusted with the amoralism of the BBC" or another correspondent who praised "an amazing, brave thing to do. I'd like to think I'd be able to do the same for someone I loved - and that someone I loved would do the same for me."

Jamie Angus is the editor of The World at One and The World This Weekend.

The first set of ears

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Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 17:02 UK time, Thursday, 25 June 2009

This week Shaun Ley interviewed the prime minister on The World at One about the details of a government announcement on parliamentary standards slated for later that afternoon.

World at One logoIn doing so, he may have incurred the annoyance of the new Speaker John Bercow, who has made a point of stressing how important he feels it is that ministers make their announcements to Parliament first, rather than touring the TV and radio studios beforehand.

Indeed, it was a notable feature of the Speaker hustings in Parliament that several of the candidates took the opportunity to criticise the practice of making announcements on the Today Programme.

Clearly, they are right on that last point - in the sense that all important news should of course be broken on The World at One. And our regular Wednesday panel picking over Bercow's comments after Prime Ministers' Questions took the same view.

Nevertheless, I wondered how widely MPs' strong feelings on this are shared beyond Parliament. Given the emphasis it received in the Speaker debates, you might think this was one of the most pressing issues undermining the standing of Parliament.

I rather suspect that following the extensive coverage of MPs' expenses in the Telegraph and elsewhere, the public probably takes a different view.

As one of the Speaker candidates put it, too many ministerial statements are made to an audience of "one man and his dog, and maybe a Lobby correspondent". And you might argue that given the decreasing coverage of proceedings in Parliament in the media, politicians have a responsibility to take the story to where the audience is, at a time when more of them are listening.

So are you outraged by getting the details first from us, or do you too feel strongly that the first set of ears to hear the news should be those of the Speaker himself?

Jamie Angus is editor of The World At One.

Fritzl trial and Austria

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Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 15:55 UK time, Friday, 20 March 2009

One of the questions that may have occurred to you after following the BBC's coverage this week of the Josef Fritzl trial is how much the terrible story tells you about Austria and the people who live there.

World at One logoThe argument goes that Austria is an innately conservative and patriarchal society, which meant that figures like Fritzl were less likely to be challenged by the authorities, or denounced by those who suspected him.

Others have drawn on Austria's place in World War Two and its literature, including the bleak work of Nobel Prizewinner Elfriede Jelinek, to explain what happened.

So given all this, I was quite surprised to hear the distinguished Anglo-Austrian journalist Hella Pick describe these theories as"totally over-the-top" on Wednesday's World at One. She told us that Austria was the most gossipy country she knows so the theories about a culture of silence were wide of the mark.

It's certainly true too that comparably awful things have happened in Britain. But it seems to me that the crimes of Fritzl are so monstrous, so far off the scale of what we've come to expect, that it may well be that they don't really tell us anything about anything.

That's an uncomfortable position for journalists whose natural inclination is try to determine the wider significance of any given event.

Jamie Angus is editor of The World At One.

Appropriate phrase

Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 14:11 UK time, Thursday, 31 January 2008

I was ear-wigging a conversation between the Newhour presenter and duty editor yesterday: our presenter Mike Williams was questioning why, since the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer has used the phrase 'ethnic cleansing' to describe what's happening in some Kenyan provinces, we should be coy about using the phrase ourselves.

World Service logoA wider discussion amongst our programme team revealed mixed views about 'ethnic cleansing', as well as the word 'tribal'. Some felt that 'tribal violence' has a pejorative sense of Heart of Darkness about it - that it implies that this violence is cultural and inevitable.

Others on the team, including some who have spent many years working and reporting in Africa, think this is liberal guilt - ”Kenya is a tribal society. That terminology is perfectly accepted there, and we shouldn't worry about using broadcasting it from London”. The question of direct comparisons with the Rwandan genocide has also been raised. It seems to me most commentators are going out of their way to explain why it's not appropriate.

Richard Dowden's piece in the Independent has been very useful; the author spoke about it both on World Service's Newshour and on Today (which you can listen to here), and the message seems to be “think Balkans rather than Rwanda” which is probably why the 'ethnic cleansing' phrase is tripping off the tongue.

Protests in Kibera, KenyaThere are a couple of reasons why the situation in Kenya is more complex than in other 'tribal' conflicts. This is not a binary dispute - there are at least three major tribes involved plus other smaller tribes, and power in Kenya has not always been held by President Kibaki's Kikuyu as his predecessor Arap Moi was a Kalenjin. Opposition leader Odinga is a Luo, two of whose former presidential candidates have been assassinated since independence. The settlement of land and resources in the post-colonial era is a large factor in the violence, as is the general absence of the rule of law in the wake of an acute political crisis.

In the end many of these phrases work fine in a fuller context; the difficulty comes when we boil them down to shorter forms in headlines and cues. So are we being too coy about the language we're using? Or is this caution justified?

Today's messageboards (pt 2)

Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 15:43 UK time, Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Thanks for all the responses to my posting on Monday about the Today programme's messageboards. I am genuinely sorry some listeners seem to be so upset about the changes we're planning.

The Today programme logoMany people posting have already made up their minds that they will not contribute to the new boards on a point of principle. I think that is a shame. Many note, quite rightly, that Today programme staff have not maintained a presence on the old boards, and that this is not a satisfactory state of affairs. What we are trying to do is host messageboards that relate to the programme; this will mean our production staff will take more from them and put more back in return.

We can only fully support as many boards as programme resources will allow, and as many of you have pointed out, we appreciate that spending licence fee money on moderating these boards means that their use has to be clearly defined, well focused, and relevant to the programme itself.

Board users will still be able to suggest topics for discussion, and there is no sense in which an unreasonable veto will be exercised to screen out "inconvenient" topics, whatever they might be. I urge people who are unhappy with what is being suggested to give the new system a chance - we are making the changes because we want a closer relationship between users and programme producers within the constraints of spending licence fee money.

Radio 4's Feedback programme is also interested in the changes. Our deputy editor Gavin Allen will be appearing on Feeback on Friday at 1330 GMT on Radio 4 to answer questions from listeners.

Today's messageboards

Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 16:24 UK time, Monday, 13 November 2006

For a number of years, the Today Programme website has hosted message boards in which any registered user can start a new thread. Starting this Thursday, we're planning to change the way these boards operate, and this has caused some concern amongst regular users of the service.

The Today programme logoAt the moment users can start discussions on any topic within reason across five broad subject areas (Home, International, Parliament, Economy and Business and the Green Room). The problem with this system is that the topics under discussion are often not closely focused on what has appeared on the programme, and indeed on future stories under consideration by the programme team.

Under the new system, the topics will be set by programme editors in two broad categories - Today's Debate and Coming Up. This will mean that much more of the messages posted will be relevant to the programme just broadcast, and future ideas which reporters and producers are working on. Under the old system, genuinely insightful postings or important story ideas were easily lost in old threads, and the proliferation of topics on the site made it all but impossible for programme staff to read them properly.

Now we will get a quick and concentrated reaction from listeners about the stories we have covered, and crucially solicit information and opinion in advance of broadcast. This takes our programme interactivity beyond the stage of 'e-mail us and tell us what you think'. The BBC and other external message boards host an infinite number of topics, and you can post links to those from the Today site, so there is little risk that users won't find a berth for almost any topic they wish to discuss.

We very much hope that our existing board users will give the new system a try; we think they will find that their views and ideas figure more prominently in the programme as a result.

Smelling the coffee

Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 16:11 UK time, Friday, 22 September 2006

So just how do you get Abu Izzadeen, the man who loudly heckled the home secretary at a speech on Wednesday, to appear on the Today Programme? And should he even have been on in the first place?

The Today programme logoToday reporter Zubeida Malik has had some dealings with the firebrand protester in the past, and when she finally caught up with him on Thursday afternoon, she was able to persuade him that an 0810 encounter with John Humphrys would be the best way to ensure that his motives for making the protest were heard and scrutinised.

Of course, that's just the beginning of the story... there was an editorial judgement to be made both about whether he should appear in the first place, and if so where in the programme. The Today team discussed some of these issues and decided that this was an 0810 interview, not least because the kind of views Izzadeen holds are exactly those that Reid was seeking to confront in his speech.

Abu Izzadeen, pictured heckling the home secretary earlier this weekThere is a powerful argument to be made that presenting the most extreme voices on air actually damages the process of integrating the Muslim community into the fight against terrorism. The BBC has a duty to balance voices, and to present a representative range of views from within communities. A number of listeners were quick to remind us on e-mail of the damage we were risking:

"He is a nobody. Don't give air to these people: it doesn't help our perception of muslims, it can only be damaging."

But others disagreed: "The young man you spoke to was understandably very angry - he made a lot of points which I think we should be listening to. All John Humphrys could say was 'If you don't like it here, why don't you leave?' The young man said more than once that he loves Britain, but that he hates the way his people are being treated, and warning that if things don't change, there will be an eruption which we will have difficulty dealing with. Instead of reviling him and ignoring his message, perhaps we should listen to him and his people and see how to find a way to coexist."

We have in recent weeks set up an interview panel of young Muslims, precisely to counter the bias towards established and known Muslim voices on our output. They'll be on the programme on Saturday morning and we'll be asking them what they made of what they heard (and you can hear their first outing here).

Izzadeen and his companion were polite in person... confident and boisterous, and he came off air believing that the interview (which you can hear here) had not overly taxed him, and indeed that some of John's questions were ill-framed. An argument about whether Muslims who found themselves completely at odds with the rule of law here should move to Saudi Arabia was, he felt, more worthy of the white van driver than the BBC.

And thanks to an eagle-eyed staff member, we managed to avoid a potentially awkward green room meeting between Izzadeen and that morning's Thought for the Day guest, Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks. Would they have found some common ground over the soggy croissants? Some things I feel are beyond even BBC patisserie.

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