Saturday, April 3, 2010

Three cheers to the Beeb

This blogger is a complete, total, unabashed , fawning admirer of the British Broadcasting Corporation, affectionately called the Beeb in Her Majesty’s realm. There is simply no media organization in the world that comes anywhere close to the BBC. Period.

Yes, the BBC is the most trusted news organization in the world. Yes, the BBC’s radio and TV programmes are produced with a professionalism that few can even aspire to match. Yes, the BBC is usually amazingly neutral and presents all sides of a picture that to really appreciate this, you only have to watch Fox News or China Television ! Yes the BBC is truly the only global media organization – CNN comes close, but still cannot match the BBC in global reach.

The jewel in the BBC Crown, to my mind, is BBC World Service Radio. Not television, but radio. In the good old days, the crackling short wave transistor radio glued to ear was the only way to listen to it. Now, short wave transmissions, that virtually defined BBC World Service for a 100 years , are being phased out. The Internet is the new medium – you can listen to the World Service (minus the crackles) any time of the day or night, on line.

All too often, media organizations today have become a chronicler of the world’s woes. Tragedies and scandals dominate reporting. Everybody does that, even the BBC. But its only the BBC, that does more. Human interest stories, stories that warm the heart, tales from around the world, that can make you chuckle, that bring a lump to the throat, that makes your eyes swell with tears, that keep ringing in your ears long after you have finished listening.

These days, BBC radio puts out a number of podcasts that you can download and listen to at leisure. They are all uniformly brilliant, but my absolute favourite is From Our Own Correspondent. A recent episode I heard triggered this post. Adam Mynott was covering the boring sounding Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Doha in Qatar. And what a lovely report he presented – click here to go to the podcast and click on Chapter 4 to listen to his piece which is only a 5 minute piece. Here is an extract from the podcast to whet your appetite

“ Countries vote electronically; they press a button to record their votes. To satisfy everybody that the system is working properly and that there are no gremlins in the software, the Chairman tests the system periodically. On Day 9 of the conference, after everybody had been in Doha for some two weeks, he did a simple test. He said to test the system, he was going to ask a simple question and asked delegates to vote yes or no. The question was, Is Doha the capital of Qatar ? To say Yes, press button No 2. The delegates reached forward to vote. After they had finished, there was however a surprising result. Two nations – Croatia and Cameroon had voted no ! And perhaps from force of habit long established from voting at the United Nations and other forums, China abstained. Croatian and Cameroonian delegates did not explain why they had learnt so little about the city where they had been staying for the last 10 days. The Chinese were inscrutable and said nothing. Perhaps they thought it would be giving too much away if they stated unequivocally that Doha was indeed the capital of Qatar".

Wow ! Three cheers to the Beeb, Hip Hip; Hooray . Hip Hip; Hooray. Hip Hip; Hooray !