Wednesday 8 December 2010

Why not give the World Service back its old and proper name?

Sometime in the late 'seventies I discovered a very loud and clear broadcasting station on the medium wave. The programme was the UK-top-20 presented by Paul Burnett. He used to do that on Luxembourg but I stopped listening, loyal as ever to Caroline that seemed to have grown up together with me.
I learned Mull of Kintyre had been kicked off the top spot by a Jamaican sounding tune the lyrics of which escaped me completely (still do not understand most of it), Up town top ranking, yet it was a pleasant dance floor number.
I developed the habit of listening to the news bulletins and some excellent reporting. BBC World Service made me a witness of the revolutions in Iran and Nicaragua, and was at the shipyards in Gdańsk a year later. Reporting struck me as being rather fair to all sides but not especially impartial: no-one shed a tear about the shah or Somoza or Gierek (had to look for that forgotten name...).

The World Service was not exclusively about news though. There were short sharp programmes on all kinds of music, it taught me a lot about classical music (ah! the days of the Greenfield Collection) and jazz and I heard familiar voices from the offshore radio days, like Paul Burnett and Tommy Vance and John Peel - Ian Anderson turned out to be not the Geronimo/RNI-man so my surprise about the loss of his Scots accent had no good foundation - and more... There were enjoyable other music presenters like Andy Kershaw and Charlie Gillett.
There were programmes on literature, religious broadcasting - especially in the days when there was no offshore alternative it was my main outside source of information.
Now I get the impression the BBC utters a sigh of relief about the death of Peel and Gillett. The last two remnants of better days.

Where and when did it go wrong?


Newsnight, Tuesday December 7th.
What actually motivates Julian Assange? Kirsty Wark quotes the Enemy of the World quoting Gustav Landauer:
The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another... We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society of men.

Since Modern High German can perfectly differentiate between Human Beings (Menschen) and Humans of the male gender (Männer) I bet this is a bad translation. Yet it is a lovely quotation from a specific religious anarchist, slaughtered by proto-nazis as more of them were.
With a face expressing the officially prescribed loathing Wark concludes Assange may be an anarchist. She turns to a specialist on political theory, studying anarchism, Carl Levy.
I know this man! They will not call me for an interview, I know that, but why him? Anyway, he did not have anything weighty to add, apart from giving the impression Assange might be an anarchist.
An anarchist wanted for sexual assault and rape. Wark works out the government sponsored Half Hour of Hate with an interview with the man behind a journalists organisation, Frontline, which harboured Assange until he went to the police station where he was locked up. We have been treated with the stories about this assault and rape and the only thing I can think is: cannot they keep that for themselves?
There is an air of police framing about this Two-in-One-Week love affair without any mutual love. Wark hammers on the rape accusation without mentioning what it seems to amount to and the Frontline man is pictured as a friend of a rapist.
Of course we are not supposed to think the Swedish accusation, which has been withdrawn by the prosecutor in Stockholm, to be re-opened by a colleague in Gothenburg for no apparent reason, is a framing operation to hand Assange over to the US regime.
Even though it is known one of his fake lovers was run by the CIA. This typically is not told by Wark either.


Apparently Newsnight is considered such a pinnacle of excellent journalism these days that I hear the rotten interviews again on The world today on the World Service in the morning. Another highlight is an item about a televangelist operating from a mosque somewhere in Yemen, preaching against Al-Qaida.
A TELEVANGELIST? You mean a pink skinned closet gay preaching hate of gay practice and forgiveness for the sinning gays? An adulterer whining about family values, drawing millions of listeners in YEMEN? At the World Service there is no-one willing to think of the use of a proper label for this preacher, a religiously sensible one. This obviously coincides with shamelessly using the words America and American whilst referring to the USA, especially to please all the listeners on a continent stretching from Green- to Fireland. Yeah love it or leave it.

My better half told me I should be attentive how US-biased news bulletins are nowadays.
It is not a sample yielding scientifically tenable results but for me it is telling enough: an analysis of two six minutes bulletins at 6am GMT on the World Service.

On December 7th there were two items in which the US or "America" were not mentioned. One about aspirin which prevents cancer. We heard that garbage before, is there no real news?
The other one was a landslide in Colombia, obviously in the US backyard but the victims are not being helped by the USA - at least, we are not told so. So two items without the US being mentioned.

On December the 8th there was an item on a taxi murder in South Africa. That's all.
All the other parts of both bulletins involved the opinion of a US minister, a US ambassador or the USA in general, or were about the USA.

In 1965 the British Empire Service had its name changed into BBC World Service.
It is high time the name Empire Service were properly revived.