Exchange on BBC status and standards on BBC WHYS

At 03:32 PM on 25 Apr 2007, Mark wrote:

This has been going on for many months. For most corporations, this would be unacceptable. Too bad you didn’t take advantage of your recent trip to India to hire competent IT people to replace your obviously less skilled crew. Apparantly this sputtering bus which barely makes it up a mild incline is a posterchild screaming for sweeping changes at BBC. Since this is the face BBC presents to the public to which it is most available to talk back to, one would assume this is the best one you have available. One can only imagine the others.

At 09:31 PM on 25 Apr 2007, Abdelilah Boukili wrote:

To mark, comment #1
You seem to be steering your sarcasm towards the BBC itself, which, ironically, you seem you can’t live without! Other organisations exercising censorship would have barred you from sending any further comment. Sometimes you have good points. Unfortunately, you blend your knowledge with sarcasm. On this blog, you are the most pugnacious contributor ready to bounce on anyone who responds to disagree with your comments. Your other defect is that you think the USA is the best and the rest of the world is the worst!

As for you statement, “Apparantly [note your selling mistake, once you shamelessly told Richard Bowen on this blog to use BBC English to improve his grammar] this sputtering bus which barely makes it up a mild incline is a posterchild screaming for sweeping changes at BBC. “ the BBC has always been innovative in its approach to spreading information. It doesn’t select the nationality of contributors. News companies in the USA like abc, CNN and Foxnews don’t accept comments from outside the USA as contributors should click on the US state they are from.

BBC has the biggest numbers of emails from contributors from around the world. Each day it receives thousands of emails. It has a record number of emails never received even by the prestigious news organisations in the USA. Last summer, it received the staggering number of more than 130,000 in response to the war between Hezbollah and Israel. It doesn’t look at their nationalities but at the merit of their comments. It doesn’t impose debates for discussion. It invites people like you and me to make their suggestions. I had the chance to suggest at least four topics to Haveyoursay. The first was about selling human organs in China, Prince Harry’ tour of duty in Iraq, and the right of schools in UK to ban the hijab.

The case of Alan Johnson proves its popularity. More than 50,000 people signed a petition calling for his release. statistically there are 8703 from UK, which means there are 43297 signatures from the rest of the world including 3635 from USA. You can check on this link . You may argue that the BBC used its “propaganda” to galvanise people on his side. But if you look at the petition, the Americans come at least second in their number to show their support. I wonder if you signed the petition or you just contented yourself with criticising the BBC for following the development of his kidnapping.

Overall, the BBC’s motto is “Nations shall speak unto Nations”. The aim of this blog is to foster dialogue between different peoples and people. It isn’t for showing one’s conceived “superiority” and utter dissatisfaction with whatever done outside the USA.

At 01:33 PM on 26 Apr 2007, Mark wrote:

Abdelilah Boukili #5?

Did I make a selling mistake? Maybe that explains why no one is buying.

You are mistaken, I don’t have any defects.

Do I think the US is best and the rest of the world is worst? Well I think that depends on who you are in life. If you are an African dictator who lives off the labors of millions of people who are your slaves, I’d say moving to the US would be a big step down. But countless tens of millions of people have moved to the US, made a good life for themselves here they otherwise would have had no chance at, and never looked back. My own grandparents were among them. Can you name any other nation which can boast that endorsement? I’ve been in probably over 40 countries. I have no further desire to travel let alone move. For me, this is the best.

Did I comment on Richard Bowen’s grammer without commenting on his grandpa too? Well my apologies Mr. Bowen, my regards to both of them.

Seeing as I am forced to subsidize BBC whether I like it or not because my federal income taxes subsidize NPR and PBS which in turn have contracts to rebroadcast BBC, I feel I have a right to comment on their performance, after all, I in part pay for it. I view them as I would view any other public employees and feel every right to express my dissatisfaction when I find their work less than adequate. Even citizens in Britain have greater choice should they elect not to own a television set and pay a license fee. I have the same option to decline CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News by not buying cable or satellite services and as they are private companies funded by their commercial sponsors, they can institute what policies they like.

As for BBC’s innovation for spreading whatever it spreads, I do not keep up with the latest trends in media broadcasting such as who was the first to podcast. I wouldn’t always characterize it as information, sometimes I’d call it misinformation, sometimes disinformation, and sometimes propaganda.

So BBC got 130,000 emials during the war in Lebanon, so what. That lasted about a month, only about 4000 a day then. Hardly seems like a lot for a modern communications network to handle without being overloaded. In my part of the world, an organization of BBCs type whose network performs as poorly and unreliably as BBC’s does would be unacceptable. But being a quasi monopoly on their home turf, they get away with it because their domestic audience has little alternative and the government which oversees it doesn’t seem to care either.

I did not sign the petition for the release of BBC’s reporter held captive. I think it is a waste of effort as those who hold him assuming he is still alive will not respond to it. Secondly, I see it as the consequence of a reckless policy, he never should have been there in the first place. I think it’s up to BBC and the British government to handle it, not me. I don’t see Mr. Johnston’s life as any more valuable than anyone elses, I don’t agree with what he was doing in Gaza, and I don’t think the profession of journalism is nearly as crucial to the state of well being of the world as journalists would like everyone else to believe it is, at least not in priority compared to those functions vital to the day to day survival of all people such as the delivery of food and medical services or the function of police. Others who chose to sign the petition disagree, so what?

Your interpretation of the purpose of this blog and whether or not any particular posting on it meets those criteria is irrelevant, only BBC’s management can and will make that judgement.

At 01:33 AM on 27 Apr 2007, Abdelilah Boukili wrote:

To Mark , comment #7
You raised many points which need answering one by one:

1- “Countless tens of millions of people have moved to the US”/ “Can you name any other nation which can boast that endorsement?” It’s true. But without immigration, the US wouldn’t be what it is now. But don’t forget that Europe is also a land of opportunities although on a lesser scale. The USA has the land and the resources to absorb even more millions.

2- “as I am forced to subsidize BBC whether I like it or not because my federal income taxes subsidize NPR and PBS which in turn have contracts to rebroadcast BBC, I feel I have a right to comment on their performance, after all, I in part pay for it.” But this is not an excuse to lavish your sarcasm on the rest of the world. The tax you pay can’t exceed 10 dollars a year while the electricity you use browsing BBC sites, sending comments and responding to others must cost you much more. After all, the contract is about broadcasting and not about BBC website. You can criticise the content of debates and information and not about the technical problems facing the blog.

3-” I wouldn’t always characterize media broadcasting as information, sometimes I’d call it misinformation, sometimes disinformation, and sometimes propaganda.” It can be so for some news organisations. But the BBC isn’t just about politics. Would you call information on the weather mere disinformation when there is forecast about rain which turns out to be snow? Is it propaganda to broadcast about social events?

4-“The BBC gets away with it because their domestic audience has little alternative.” But BBC isn’t the only news organisation in UK. The British have larger choices through other channels. I refer you to the following:
• BBC TV – operates BBC1, BBC2 and digital services including BBC News 24
• BBC World – commercially-funded international news channel
• ITV – major commercial network, organised around regional franchises
• Channel 4 – commercially funded but publicly owned national station
• Five – national commercial channel
• Independent Television News (ITN) – supplier of news to ITV, Channel 4
• British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) – operator of digital satellite platform, Sky, and provider of film, entertainment channels and news channel Sky News
Not to mention the countless radio channels.
You may argue that these channels are the same. They have different names for fake variety and alternatives.

5- “I see it as the consequence of a reckless policy, Alan Johnston never should have been there in the first place.” So you think journalists shouldn’t go any further than their countries and the public should know nothing about the outside world. This goes with your belief that as you don’t care about the outside world and that to quote you, “ I have no further desire to travel let alone move. For me, this is the best.”

6- “I don’t think the profession of journalism is nearly as crucial to the state of well being of the world.” Here you are contradicting yourself. How comes that you are so interested in the events taking place around the world and yet dismiss journalism as worthless. You can argue that “I’ve been in probably over 40 countries.” Does this mean you know everything about the other countries of the world? So if journalism is nothing to you, why are you and avid consumer of the news brought to you by journalists?

7- “Only BBC’s management can and will make judgement if a posting meets criteria. “ Do you recall any time you sent a comment to WHYS which wasn’t published? The other interactive site Haveyoursay has become transparent by showing the number of total comments, published comments, and rejected comments. Do you know if any other news website exceeding the BBC in its level of interaction and popularity internationally and domestically?

At 04:40 PM on 27 Apr 2007, Mark wrote:

Abdelilah Boukili #10

Is Europe a land of opportunity? Ask the North Africans who were brought to France to work menial jobs and whose children are French but cannot get a job no matter how well qualified they are because they are seen as different and other. Ask Turks who work in Germany but who can never become full fledged citizens and will never be seen as equal to other Germans no matter how many generations they live there. Discrimination is rampant in much of Europe and while it still exists in the US, it is unlike anything it once was or the way it is in Europe today. Contrast the candidacy of Barack Obama who has a real chance to be the next President of the United States with the chances of anyone considered a minority in becoming a head of state in Europe. How many North Africans are ther in the French Senat. How many Turks in the German Parliament? How many of them are business leaders holding executive positions of power in large corporations? Contrast that with my neighbor who lived two doors down from me. He came to America from Cuba in 1958 with his wife, two children and ten cents. He is now a multimillionaire who owns several homes around the country, owns several McDonalds restaurants, and was President of the Hispanic McDonald’s owners of America Association. This is a typical story. Anyting like it in Europe is rare at best.

2. Why is criticizing BBC’s inability to correct its technical problems with this website off limits? Isn’t that what the initial blog entry was all about? Isn’t that what invited comments would be assumed to be about?

3. I said “it isn’t always information” and sometimes it is something else. Broadcasters have a right to editorialize the news. BBC’s editorial policy seems to be out of control and beyond supervision. But much worse, its editorializing is often not distinct from its reporting, in fact its reporting is performed in the service of its editorial stance. That is very bad journalism…if it can even be called journalism.

4. Perhaps BBC has more competition these days than I thought. But how many of its competitors have such lavish budgets and are subsidized so heavily by an audience which has no choice if it wants access to televison programs? Even so it complains that it doesn’t have enough money and is now miffed that it cannot expand by buying additional television networks.

5. The subject of Alan Johnston is a very delicate one for BBC right now and not one they want freely discussed openly at this moment. That is entirely understandable and so I have communicated with them in private. However, the only comment I want to offer today is that IMO reporters should only have their lives placed in jeopardy to get a story when there are extraordinary events occurring and the value of some unusual news item is carefully weighed against the risk. I’m not satisfied that this happened here. I also hope he is safe and will be freed soon. I look forward to his account of his recent experience and what perspective he puts it in.

6. I didn’t say journalism means nothing but if my house was on fire, I’d rather see a fireman a the front door to put it out than a journalist to report it.

7. Many of my comments were not published. The ones you read and find “pugnacious” have been screened as the mildest and most acceptable of them. I acknowledge this as BBC’s right and obligation to set and uphold its standards as it sees fit. If it publishes my comment, it doesn’t mean it agrees with them, it just feels it is acceptable to present my point of view. If it doesn’t and finds it objectionable for any reason, that is OK too because that is one of the conditions anyone who posts on a managed site accepts.

To Mark #11

Europe is a land of opportunity for many. Immigrants are starting to have political responsibilities in countries like France, Belgium and Holland. There are ministers and MP although they can still be counted on fingertips. Isn’t Nicholas Sarkozy (the presidential candidate in France) of Hungarian origin? I assure there are a lot of millionaires in Europe who are of immigrant origins. Just browse the internet to get more information.

In USA, the WASP relinquished power only after the protests and struggles of the 60s. You know the history of this better than me. Only towards the beginning of the 21st century that black people saw their chance to be in the US administration through Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. It is now only speculation that Obama will be the future US president.

I am glad that you changed your attitude to Alan Johnston. Now you care for him when in you other comment you said, “I don’t see Mr. Johnston’s life as any more valuable than anyone else, I don’t agree with what he was doing in Gaza,”

I salute your openness to different views and readiness to respond to those who disagree with you. I look forward to agreeing and disagreeing with you on this blog as without opposite views it will look like a propaganda site favouring one side and not the other.

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