Bits and Bobs
As the "silly season" of British journalism comes
to a close in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, here is a compilation
of several stories that I've been following recently:
BBC Radio 4 program "From Our
Own Correspondent," celebrates its 50th anniversary
From Our Own Correspondent Turns 50
The exemplary BBC Radio 4 program "From Our Own Correspondent,"
celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The program, broadcast
on the UK's equivalent of National Public Radio, features
dispatches from foreign correspondents' personal perspectives.
FooC reporters reflect on their experiences and in doing so
they exemplify what people love about foreign correspondents
- their glamour and mystique.
Reporting from exotic locations, correspondents are allowed
to stray away from the headlines and write colorful pieces
that contextualize and deepen our understanding of the main
The BBC's leading foreign correspondent John Simpson, wrote
in The Guardian, "You don't lose the detail in FooC:
It luxuriates there in full, florid complexity."
According to its website, FooC correspondents enjoy writing
for it because "after a busy day in the field covering
a big news story, it can often be cathartic for the correspondent
to sit down, compose his or her thoughts, and start writing."
It can be pretty cathartic to listen, too.
to From Our Own Correspondent
Michael Buerk Says Men Are Just Sperm Donors
Veteran BBC newsreader Michael Buerk sparked up the silly
season in journalism by telling Radio Times that men have
been reduced to "sperm donors" in British broadcasting.
Buerk also said, "The traits that have traditionally
been associated with men - reticence, stoicism, single-mindedness
- have been marginalized," so men have had to adapt by
becoming more like women. His examples of feminized males:
David Beckham and Tim Henman.
Eve Pollard, Hon. President of the non-profit Women in Journalism,
said, "To be fair to Michael Buerk, he did argue that
it is women's thinking, mainly their ability to be in touch
with their emotions, that has changed the culture from the
old stoic, stiff-upper-lip male view. I don't think even he
would say that women are running the world."
Buerk also referred to several high-ranking BBC positions
filled by women as evidence that women were in the drivers'
seat there, deciding what people see and hear.
Pollard cites statistics: one woman to every 10 men in corporate
boardrooms and only four women editing national newspapers
out of 20. These data show that women haven't gained equality
yet. Not even close. Beyond that, she notes that there are
many cultures around the world in which women's voices aren't
dominant. They're practically unheard.
Pollard said: "The truth is that in some areas women's
views are on the rise. But often even this isn't true and
it is men that are still taking the decisions but often they
get it wrong because they think they know what women want."
Buerk is currently an anchor on BBC World, and is known for
his reporting from the 1984 famine in Ethiopia.
To view some of the chatter, ridicule and humor.
Michael Buerk's comments
serious response by Anna Ford
silly response by Tim Dowling
serio-comic response by Zoe Williams
Former BBC Head Delivers McTaggart Lecture
Lord John Birt
Lord John Birt, former Director General of the BBC under
Margaret Thatcher, delivered a McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh
International Television festival two weeks ago that distinctly
underwhelmed his audience.
The annual McTaggart speech is typically delivered by a high
profile television executive, providing a snapshot of the
broadcast industry with predictions and policy recommendations
for the industry's future.
Birt, who made massive internal reforms at the BBC during
the 1990s, was expected to give a powerhouse lecture. He provided
a strong description of the challenges confronting public
service broadcasting in terms of funding, technology and content.
But commentators say that Birt's analysis of these problems
was accompanied by inadequate, nebulous solutions.
In terms of funding, Birt advocated the BBC sharing some of
its public funding with Channel 4, another public service
broadcaster which doesn't receive subsidies. He also advocated
better drama, educational and news content that is less dumbed-down.
These recommendations are hardly controversial.
Some speculated that his new role as a special "blue
skies" advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair was responsible
for the middle-of-the-road speech. Others said that Birt's
lackluster address was evidence of his mellowing.
Despite its lack of forward-looking ideas, the lecture presents
a comprehensive picture of British broadcasting today, by
one of its most influential figures. It's worth checking out.
to MacTaggart lecture
Guardian's take on the lecture