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."