Tuesday, June 27, 2006

BBC blog: The Editors

I'm an addict of the BBC. I grew up listening to BBC Radio. BBC was one of the elements that nurtured my interest in journalism. During my childhood, there was just the radio. I could miss Radio Australia, VOA, SLBC (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corpn), Radio Netherlands; but I could never miss the BBC.

Today, because of too much of radio waves in the atmosphere (thanks to mobile phones), it has become very difficult to tune into shortwave broadcasts during the day time. Of course, the BBC World (TV) is there. But ever since it became a pay channel, our local cable operator has stopped transmitting it. But I don't miss BBC. Thanks to technology, today I listen to it on the web also. It's on right now: a programme on World Cup Football. Reminds me of the days when my little transistor on the study table used to be tuned into the BBC.

Much has changed, including the format of the news itself. I used to listen to South Asia Survey at 7.15 am, The News at 7.30 am, Radio Newsreel at 7.45 am; then the Hindi News on AIR at 8 am, before going to school. Outlook which used to be broadcast at 7.30 pm was one of my favourite. In the night, I used to take my dinner break with BBC News at 8.30 pm, and AIR Hindi and English News after that. And, in music there was the John Peel Show. Those were the days!

Mark Tully's voice was associated with accuracy and authority. The famous news break on BBC on Oct 31, 1984, when the whole world, including Rajiv Gandhi, got to know of Indira Gandhi's death from the BBC. He was and still is more of an Indian than all of us. I read somewhere that he refused a transfer to London with promotion, since he wanted to be in India. He used to relentlessly push positive stories from India with the desk in London which in those days had only an image of poverty and bullock-carts when it came to India.

It was a pleasure listening to Paddy Feeny's presentation of Saturday Sports Special. BBC stopped broadcasting the Test Match Specials, with veterans like Brian Johnston, Don Mosey, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Henry Bloefeld etc. Now thanks to Internet, we can listen on to BBC Test Match Special on the web.

Tim Sebastian (who is now famous for Hard Talk programme on the TV) was the Warsaw correspondent during the strike by Solidarity trade union at the Gdansk port in Poland. This was in 1980, and his reports inspired me a lot. So too Alex Birdie's reports from Iran, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88).

BBC continues to change, but still retains its high levels of professionalism. It gives lots of importance to development issues: very often we can see poverty and health issues of Africa taking the lead slot in the news bulletins.

Now, BBC too joins the blog bandwagon. How could it remain out when many similar reputed institutions have blogs of its own! Better late than never! Incidentally, it is not the BBC doesn't have an interactive programme. What was earlier the "Phone-in programme" is now called Have Your Say". Till recently it was called "Talking Point".

BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says he doesn't think blogs will necessarily change the world, but does believe blogs will offer a fresh way of turning the traditional roles of writer and reader into those of people having a conversation.

BBC News has got together to start its own blog, called The Editors, which was launched yesterday. The hope is that it will become a discussion forum for all sorts of issues and dilemmas surrounding the BBC news programmes. Now, this will become another medium for me to follow the BBC.


  1. I came across your blog almost by accident and have been an avid followe ever since. There is so much of your dad in the way you write and express thought. You and your father were and are features of reverence in my life and thought and your posting on the BBC touched a particularly resonant note. I too grew up on John Peel, The Jolly Good Show, FYOCorrespondent, and Paddy Feeny and the TMS's. They were and are part of some of the most memorable growing up memories i have.

  2. Hi Rony,
    What a pleasant surprise to see you here. I am moved by your comments; and thanks a lot for those kind words.

    It was your father who, to a large extent, nurtured my interest in journalism and cricket. He was the person who introduced to me to many programmes on the BBC, especially "Letter from America" by Alistair Cooke, who is now no more. I can go on and on...

    How pleasant to share all these things with you.... Do keep coming back.