ME and Ophelia

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

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Thousands of staff from BBC News
To attend “impartiality seminars”

"Potential expats said they would miss soaps, comedy and news, but a third of people said they would not mind leaving behind reality TV or the UK's obsession with celebrity. But they were happy to wave goodbye to the British weather, MPs and traffic congestion."

The above is an excerpt from today's BBC News online report about Sunday roasts topping the wish lists of expats. Note how MP's were slipped in to the last sentence at the end of the BBC's report.

Last weekend, the Sunday Times reported that BBC journalists are being sent on “impartiality seminars”. Not surprisingly, the BBC staff are cynical about the courses, viewing them with derision and saying that not much in their reporting will change. In my view, if they don't see the light soon, they'll be doing themselves out of their own jobs and will have only themselves to blame when the BBC is set free to create its own news - and fend for itself.

Compare the BBC's report on Abbey National's Offshore survey with that of the Move Channel's article: Expats feeling closer to home. Note, it's dated May 8th and therefore may be about a different Abbey National Offshore survey. The BBC did not make clear which survey they were reporting on. Whatever, the Move Channel provides far more interesting and useful information on expats. I'm searching for a copy of Abbey National's latest survey to see what the BBC were looking at that made them think their report was useful, interesting and in the public interest.
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BBC and Abbey National
Offshoring jobs to India

Update re above post: On googling for the Abbey National Offshore survey - to find the information it contained and date it was produced - I came across this article entitled "Unsure offshore", published today in Computer Business Review.

It states: "In the past few months, Lloyds TSB, HSBC, Barclays, AXA, Prudential and Abbey National have all announced plans to send between 400 and 6,000 jobs to India, replacing operations currently based in the UK. Offshoring is growing rapidly in the UK and the scope for backlash is growing. National institutions such as National Rail, British Telecom, and directory enquiry services have already sent significant numbers of jobs to India. And that research studies estimate the number of jobs to be sent to India to rise to between 200,000 and 300,000 over the next five years."

Why does the BBC dumb down its reports? Is it so arrogant that it thinks all of its reports are in the public interest? The BBC could have taken much more in-depth data from Abbey National's Offshore survey: useful stuff - especially for expats and potential expats. Or, in relation to the survey, they could have reported on Abbey National's offshoring of jobs and the pros and cons of offshoring. To educate people and help stem unnecessary backlash. Inform the public with real news and issues. True facts and figures. And what offshoring means to people and this country.

BBC staff are paid to provide a public service - not to publish drivel that rubbishes MPs in the same sentence as the British weather and "traffic congestion". There's nothing unnatural about British weather. We enjoy spring, summer, autumn and winter. The whole of the UK is not congested with traffic. Sometimes, I wonder if the BBC is anti-everything (except themselves) or even anti-British. I say, send them to India and tell them to get on their bikes. See how they enjoy living far away from our democracy, MPs and weather.
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Update: Scaryduck, who works for the BBC (and who I don't want offshored to India!) has just commented here that he has not been invited to attend lessons in balance. Which is very interesting. Perhaps the BBC are just selecting those who they think need lessons in balance ;-)

Apologies for publishing this post before I'd fully completed and captured links. Unfortunately, the Sunday Times does not enable direct linking to individual reports, so I hope they don't mind me copying and pasting their report, dated April 18, 2004, in full. Here's pinging a warm hello to two hard working blogging MP's Clive Soley and Tom Watson.

BBC reporters get lessons in balance
By David Cracknell and Richard Brooks

BBC journalists are being sent on “impartiality seminars” following criticism in Lord Hutton’s report into the death of Dr David Kelly.

Those who have attended say that the aim is to encourage reporters and producers to think outside the “left-leaning liberal” mentality with which many associate the corporation and to make sure a broader range of views is reflected.

BBC bosses want to reduce the risks of the corporation being embroiled in a political storm similar to the Kelly affair. Hutton criticised the corporation for its handling of a radio report on the government’s Iraq policy.

The seminars come as the BBC faces fresh criticism from Ofcom, the new broadcasting regulator, which has accused it of relying too much on poor-quality light entertainment.

The organisation is trying to find its way again after the departure of Gavyn Davies, its chairman, and Greg Dyke, its director-general, following Hutton’s report.

Thousands of staff from BBC News, the reporting arm of the corporation, are expected to attend the two-hour seminar before next year’s expected general election. Groups are shown footage from a fictional television station called Partial News to show how to avoid over-opinionated reporting.

Fiona Bruce, the news presenter, features in a mock report in which the argument that paedophiles should be castrated is aired. Another dummy programme discusses the pros and cons of hanging and of pulling out of the European Union.

Staff are also shown footage of Andrew Marr, the BBC political editor, and Jeff Randall, the business editor, and then encouraged to discuss the pitfalls of straying from neutrality. During the seminars so far, most have agreed that only journalists of the seniority of Marr and Randall should be allowed to express an opinion in their news coverage.

Having watched the videos, thoses attending the seminars have to split into smaller groups to discuss how to think differently. Using flip-charts, they discuss the question “What is impartiality?” and are then encouraged to come up with “action plans” to encourage it.

Staffers doubt that the seminars will have any effect. One who has recently been on the course said: “I seriously doubt it will change anyone’s behaviour. Most of the staff treated the whole exercise quite cynically.”

In an e-mail to staff, Richard Sambrook, director of BBC News, says: “I believe we (more than any other broadcaster) owe it to an increasingly sceptical audience to re- examine our core journalistic beliefs. Fewer people than ever understand, or say they appreciate, the value of independent news. The challenge is to re-state the case for our journalism and to articulate its value in a multi-channel world.”

Meanwhile, the BBC will come under fire this week in an Ofcom report for its over- reliance on poor light entertainment. BBC1 is expected to come in for particular criticism.

The report is the first of three by Ofcom into public service broadcasting (PSB). Entertainers who have come in for criticism recently include Jim Davidson, who presents Commercial Breakdown for BBC1. The long-running but recently relaunched Top of the Pops and quiz shows such as They Think It’s All Over have also struggled and BBC1 has failed to find new comedy hits in recent years.

The Ofcom research shows that the public thinks PSB programmes on all channels lack innovation and originality.

The good news for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five is that the 6,000 respondents to the Ofcom poll liked the mixture of programmes, placing “impartial and accurate” news at the top of their list. Drama and serious programmes such as Panorama and Question Time also fared well.

Soaps, too, were regarded as a vital part of PSB, mainly because they often depict social and health issues of current interest. The public also appreciate programmes in which they can take part, such as Restoration and The Big Read.

The research shows the public likes being brought together as a nation by big events such as the rugby World Cup final, shown on ITV. Several satellite channels, including Sky News, Discovery and the History Channel, with no official public service remit, are as admired as any of the terrestial stations.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 4/21/2004
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