Sunday, October 30, 2005

BBC to launch Arabic TV service

The BBC announced last week that it is dropping a number of radio services and concentrating instead on the launch of an Arabic television service slated to begin in 2007.

A press release says the move is "aimed at maintaining and enhancing BBC World Services' pre-eminent position and impact in an emerging multi-media scene." They hope to further develop multimedia and video reporting from the Middle East, Russia, South America and South Asia.

Al Jazeera reported that the move would bring the service directly into competition with the controversial Middle Eastern television network. The Telegraph, posted on the Media Channel, also emphasized the move as a reponse to competition from Al Jazeera and declining audiences in 22 countries.

The move will involving closing radio broadcasting in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai in March 2006. Pointing out the resulting job losses because of the cuts, the National Union of Journalists also asked: "Does Jack Straw [UK Foreign Minister] really believe that countries like Kazakhstan where intimidation of political opponents remains common and there is significant international concern that recent elections were rigged no longer need the type of public service broadcasting offered by the World Service".

The BBC tried a similar entry into the Middle Eastern market in 1996 partnering with Orbit Television, funded by the Saudi Mawarid Group. The fledgling network collapsed when coverage of the Sadui Royal Family angered the Saudis. That project was a commercial operation; the current one will be funded by the British government. Many of the original reporters with that venture wound up at Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

License fee latest

I've been a bit remiss in keeping up with BBC news lately, but here's a quick update on the BBC's attempts to secure a license fee increase.
  • "MPs find fee rise hard to swallow" and "In danger of a backlash": Although it looks like the BBC will finally get its license fee increase - seven years of annual inflation increases plus 2.3%, "to £150.50 per annum by 2013" - but the size of the increase has raised hackles among MPs and industry types. Although "this is to allow the BBC to fulfil the vision laid out for it in the government's green paper on the organisation's future - as a leading force in the much-vaunted switch to digital" it still rubs some people up the wrong way.
  • "BBC goes to the City for digital cash": Although the BBC got its licence fee okayed, they're still looking for more cash - by going into the "money markets to raise a substantial bond in order to pay for the additional costs of digital switchover, targeting help for vulnerable, older and disabled people." These over-75's will need BBC help in making the transition by the 2012 deadline, and the beeb needs to find the cash to do it.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

George, God and the BBC

In yet another important example of the British media serving as America's watchdog, the US media has been abuzz this week with reports of an upcoming BBC documentary that reveals Bush claimed to Middle Eastern politicians that God directed him to bomb Afghanistan, depose Saddam, and create a Palestinian state.

The BBC's three-part "The Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs," will air in late October on BBC Two. It includes interviews with Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Minister, talking about George talking about God in their June 2003 meeting.

Interestingly, Common Dreams points out the the story was broken by the Israeli newspaper, Hareetz, in June 2003 but never picked up by mainstream media. Writer Ira Chernus speculates that the media couldn't run with the story until a "mainstream" source reported it.

The White House has subsequently denied it all, natch.

No word on whether God's directing the BBC to reveal the truth to the American people.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

BBC 's "News for a Non-stop World"

While perusing the BBC's 2005 Annual Report and other documents this morning, I stumbled across a press release week announcing the launch of BBC's online marketing campaign -- News for a Non-stop World -- aimed at the US and Western Europe audiences. Apparently it will last six months starting last week. (The release notes that more than 50 percent of the international audience for is in the US where "there is a demonstrable demand for international news; an alternative and additional perspective on world events - in addition to that provided by local suppliers.")

In language slightly reminiscent of Daniel Lerner's old formulations, the Beeb will be targeting "inquisitives," a newly developed marketeer's term for an audience that is "grabbing short bursts of time from their bosses by going online at work, and deploys an innovative approach to creative and media, including relationships with messenger services and RSS feeds direct from the BBC's news site." (Interesting aside: In an interview published in Chris Patterson and Annabelle Sreberny's edited volume, International News in the Twenty-First Century, BBC's Chris Westcott also categorized BBC online audiences into "cosmopolitans" and "aspirants." Wonder how this development language would translate in Murdochland audience categories?)

Alan Booth, Controller of Marketing at the BBC's international radio and online division, BBC World Service, was quoted as saying: "Research we commissioned into online news users reveals that aimless surfing is a thing of the past . . . In some ways people access online news sites instead of having a cigarette. And this must be much healthier. And they are accessing specific sites and portals because they know exactly what it is they want to see.

AdWeek says the campaign will feature BBC headlines as banner ads on the Washington Post and the New York Times among others. I find this telling --the BBC will be advertising its high quality FREE content on the NYT which recently decided to start charging for the priviledge of reading Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, etc. Booth told the trade magazine: "Simply having a good message isn't good enough . . . We feel they're more likely to click through on headlines than if we just had a great slogan or piece of creative." This will be "using the news to sell the news." Note: CNN had a similar campaign in June.

The BBC was described last fall as "fishing" in a previous ad campaign for US audiences who wanted a broader view of the US elections.

Yahoo News reported that Reuters had a similar deal with Diet Coke:
"In a six-month campaign that began last month, Reuters helped create banner ads for Diet Coke that display a real-time customized feed of "feel-good" stories selected by a Reuters editor. Clicking on the headlines takes users to an article page in a branded Diet Coke area on They can also receive the RSS feed on their cell phones or add it to their feed reader, and the Diet Coke-branded feed has even run on the Reuters sign in Times Square."

Friday, September 30, 2005

It's not just Rup investing in the internet ...

While News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch has been prominently investing in internet media firms (as reported in London Calling), he's certainly not the only one. Other big media corporations, including Viacom and Time Warner, are also pursuing aggresive interent acquisition strategies. The Benton Comm Policy listserv notes a Wall Street Journal piece (Story here but requires registration) that highlights how these and other TNCs "are spending billions in a spate of acquisitions and aggressive Internet initiatives, and are likely to keep on spending." Why are they doing this? In a nutshell, it's the fear of being left behind by new media as audiences migrate to the internet--potentially prompting advertisers to jump ship. The WSJ piece goes on:
    Some hope to directly challenge the giant portals like Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. -- Web sites that serve as gateways to the Internet. Others are transferring some of their most valuable content to online sites, even though that risks alienating their traditional distribution partners. Although it's too soon to say whether the media industry's latest approach will bear fruit, the companies are finding some areas more fertile than others. They have been investing heavily in youth-oriented Web sites, like gaming, and less in areas like prime-time entertainment programming that is still a cash cow for the television networks. They're also mostly avoiding the pay-per-view model, which hasn't yet gained traction online.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Robert Fisk barred from entering US

ROBERT FISKThe Independent's veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, a constant and vociferous critic of the US-UK invasion of Iraq has apprently been barred from entering the United States. Doug Ireland of Direland cites a (Santa Fe) New Mexican report that "U.S. immigration officials refused Tuesday [Sept. 20] to allow Robert Fisk . . . to board a plane from Toronto to Denver. Fisk was on his way to Santa Fe for a sold-out appearance in the Lannan Foundation 's readings-and-conversations series Wednesday night." A program officer for the Lannan Foundation was quoted as saying "Fisk was told that his papers were not in order." Fisk ended up being interveiwed via satellite link from a Toronto TV station by Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! (MP3 of interview is available at the Democracy Now! web site)

Monday, September 26, 2005

More Rup Online

The Financial Times reported last week that Rupert Murdoch's next online moves are being readied for roll-out in the coming weeks. Look for Rupe to land a search engine and some sort of Internet voice service soon.

Rumor still has it that Blinkx will be the search engine that ends up part of the Murdoch stable. FinTimes notes that Rupe is keen on Internet voice services, predicting a much faster acceptance and widepspread availability -- he's saying two or three years.

To recap, Murdoch first announced his intentions to expand News Corp's online activities last winter at a News Corp meeting, then in April gave a much noted speech at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in which he spanked the participants for not keeping up with technological changes driving how young people get news and information (FinTimes: the Internet and other digital technologies require a revolution in today's media companies. Murdoch went on a buying spree in the summer with an eye on companies oriented toward young male audiences. Finally, he held yet another summit this month in Carmel calling in what the Guardian described as 45 top executives with the charge of creating an online entertainment media empire. Please note: ENTERTAINMENT.

Can you create an interactive, community based media product that is still highly commercial? Well, look at e-Bay, for starters. It's no charity outfit. Can you buy such an entity? Don't they have to be grown? I guess Rupe intends to find out.