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Greg Dyke claims BBC is part of ‘Westminster conspiracy’ preventing democratic change

Oddly, it looks like the BBC and Politics.co.uk are the only two news organisations to report on Greg Dyke’s appearance at the Liberal Democrat party conference, where the former BBC director-general claimed that the BBC is part of a ‘conspiracy’ preventing the necessary ‘radical changes’ to UK democracy.

[Update: The Belfast Telegraph and The Herald in Glasgow also reported some of his comments - please do send over any other sightings]

Dyke – who was director-general from 2000-2004, before resigning after the verdict of the Hutton Report – made the comments on Sunday at a fringe meeting about MPs’ expenses at the Liberal Democrat party conference.

Dyke said a commission should examine the ‘whole political system,’ but added: “I fear it will never happen because I fear the political class will stop it.”

Major changes he had wanted to make to the BBC’s coverage of politics had been blocked, Dyke claimed. Some of his comments, as reported by the BBC:

“The evidence that our democracy is failing is overwhelming and yet those with the biggest interest in sustaining the current system – the Westminster village, the media and particularly the political parties, including this one – are the groups most in denial about what is really happening to our democracy.”

(…)

“I tried and failed to get the problem properly discussed when I was at the BBC and I was stopped, interestingly, by a combination of the politicos on the board of governors, one of whom was married to the man who claimed for cleaning his moat, the cabinet interestingly – the Labour cabinet – who decided to have a meeting, only about what we were trying to discuss, and the political journalists at the BBC.

“Why? Because, collectively, they are all part of the problem. They are part of one Westminster conspiracy. They don’t want anything to change. It’s not in their interests.”

Politics.co.uk reported a slightly different angle: Dyke also claimed that politicians damaged by the expenses scandal should not be allowed to conduct financial scrutiny of the BBC or other public bodies. Dyke said:

“When I was director-general of the BBC I regularly appeared before select committees and had often quite I thought quite dumb people coming and giving me tough questions.

“How can those people question you now? How can someone who’s flipped their mortgage possibly sit there and start asking me about expenditure at the BBC? Because you just come back to them. I think some people are completely undermined by this. They should go because they can’t do the job.”

A blog search picks up a little more mention of the comments and this video interview with Greg Dyke by Mark Thompson (Lib Dem ‘Mark Reckons’ blogger, not the current BBC D-G):

Hat-tip: MediaLens.

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Mark Thompson on the defence: BBC review will be ‘radical and open-minded’

September 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

BBC director-general Mark Thompson yesterday responded to the various criticisms of News Corp’s James Murdoch and culture secretary Ben Bradshaw at the Royal Television Society’s binnenial convention in Cambridge.

While Thompson said that he agreed with parts of Bradshaw’s RTS speech and said that a ‘radical and open-minded’ review of the BBC would not dismiss the suggestion that the coporation had reached its limits of expansion, the director-general said he found some of Bradshaw’s ideas ‘frankly puzzling’.

“He [Bradshaw] set out a long list of the current BBC public services. By the way, I don’t know many broadcasters who haven’t launched multiple services over the past decade. But with one or two exceptions, these new BBC services weren’t approved by the BBC Trust. They were approved by the Government of which Ben is a member. Indeed, the Government asked the BBC to launch a range of new services to help with their policy of encouraging the public to move to digital television and radio. Ben’s surprise at these services is itself surprising.”

The speech can be read in full at this link.

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MediaGuardian: BBC Worldwide may be part-privatised, says Thompson

September 14th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

In an interview with the Guardian, BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, said that executives are considering the part- privatisation of the corporation’s  commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

Thompson also said that the provision of free BBC online news was ‘utterly non-negotiable’. “I would rather the BBC was abolished than we started encrypting news to stop people seeing it,” he told the Guardian.

Full story at this link…

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Journalism Daily: Alex Brummer on the economic crisis, BBC director-general’s email and a shout-out to freelancers

September 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism Daily

A daily round-up of all the content published on the Journalism.co.uk site. You can also sign up to our e-newsletter and subscribe to the feed for the Journalism Daily here.

News and features:

Ed’s picks:

Tip of the day:

#FollowJourn:

On the Editors’ Blog:

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The Latin America news gap: what do you think?

Nuria Leon, a journalist and postgraduate student at the University of Westminster, recently demanded an explanation from BBC director-general Mark Thompson regarding the lack of varied BBC news content from Latin America. You can listen to the encounter here.

Now she needs journalists’ help: for her MA dissertation in media management she wants to find out what journalists think about coverage of Latin America in the UK. [NB: Latin American countries listed here, and UN information on the Americas here.]

So, if you think there is a hole in English-language reportage from that part of the world, please help her out. Here are her questions. Please leave your thoughts below, or email her directly: n.leon at my.westminster.ac.uk.

  • 1. Given your own experiences:
  • a. What do you think causes a gap between between Latin America and the UK in regards to the distribution and production of news?
  • b. What would help create a direct link between both markets for the production and distribution of news?
  • 2. What do you think about international news agencies and their service from Latin America?
  • 3. Do you think there is a demand for customised news services, rather than homogeneous news packages offered by international news agencies?
  • 4. What benefits would you see if both markets started to conduct direct, continuous and permanent business?
  • 5.  Do you think the UK would be receptive to more Latin American news content?
  • 6. Do you believe there is a niche for such a service? A need?
  • 7. More generally, what could help reduce the gap between Latin America and the UK news industry?
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BBC executives’ expenses: the links. Now play!

You’ll find the information tucked away on the BBC Freedom of Information site at this link.

Update: Journalism.co.uk wasted a little bit of its time getting the annoyingly inaccessible BBC PDFs into spreadsheet format, but knew that the Guardian’s data people would be doing that too. So we’ll get back to other duties while you have fun with this from the Guardian’s DataBlogDATA: download the full spreadsheet of BBC executive expenses.

More to follow from Journalism.co.uk, but in the meantime the links you’ll need if you want to play yourself. Some files are missing – BBC Information informs us that there are more to come.

And the individuals:

Mark Thompson’s expenses 2008/09 PDF (63KB)
Mark Thompson’s expenses 2007/08 PDF (47KB)
Mark Thompson’s expenses 2006/07 PDF (48KB)
Mark Thompson’s expenses 2005/06 PDF (44KB)
Mark Thompson’s expenses 2004/05 PDF (42KB)

Mark Byford’s expenses 2008/09 PDF (41KB)
Mark Byford’s expenses 2007/08 PDF (41KB)
Mark Byford’s expenses 2006/07 PDF (42KB)
Mark Byford’s expenses 2005/06 PDF (41KB)
Mark Byford’s expenses 2004/05 PDF (40KB)

Jana Bennett’s expenses 2008/09 PDF (47KB)
Jana Bennett’s expenses 2007/08 PDF (48KB)
Jana Bennett’s expenses 2006/07 PDF (48KB)
Jana Bennett’s expenses 2005/06 PDF (48KB)
Jana Bennett’s expenses 2004/05 PDF (51KB)

Tim Davie’s expenses 2008/09 PDF (47KB)
Tim Davie’s expenses 2007/08 PDF (42KB)
Tim Davie’s expenses 2006/07 PDF (47KB)
Tim Davie’s expenses 2005/06 PDF (41KB)

Erik Huggers’ expenses 2008/09 PDF (39KB)

  • Lucy Adams, Director, BBC People – biography to be published shortly

Zarin Patel’s expenses 2008/09 PDF (42KB)
Zarin Patel’s expenses 2007/08 PDF (42KB)
Zarin Patel’s expenses 2006/07 PDF (45KB)
Zarin Patel’s expenses 2005/06 PDF (40KB)
Zarin Patel’s expenses 2004/05 PDF (37KB)

John Smith’s expenses 2008/09 PDF (44KB)
John Smith’s expenses 2007/08 PDF (44KB)
John Smith’s expenses 2006/07 PDF (44KB)
John Smith’s expenses 2005/06 PDF (46KB)
John Smith’s expenses 2004/05 PDF (46KB)

Caroline Thomson’s expenses 2008/09 PDF (50KB)
Caroline Thomson’s expenses 2007/08 PDF (51KB)
Caroline Thomson’s expenses 2006/07 PDF (51KB)
Caroline Thomson’s expenses 2005/06 PDF (45KB)
Caroline Thomson’s expenses 2004/05 PDF (50KB)

And while we’re about it – here’s the link to the Audit Committee standing orders:

And the Register of interests:

MORE:

Expenses:

General:

Travel and transport:

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Arabian Business: Al Jazeera English ‘signs first major US TV deal’

June 25th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

“Al Jazeera English will begin its foray into the American market on July 1 after signing its first major US distribution deal with a cable TV company in the Washington DC area,” Arabian Business exclusively reports.

According to AB’s report, Al Jazeera’s director general, Wadah Khanfar, said in an interview: “On July 1 we [AJE] are going to launch the first operation in cable distribution in the United States.”

Full story at this link…

(Hat tip: @amonck)

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RSF founder leaves Doha Centre for Media Freedom

June 24th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

Disappointing (if somewhat predicted) news from Doha’s Centre for Media Freedom: founder of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and director-general of the centre, Robert Menard, has left with his team (heads of the assistance, research and communications departments), according to a release from the organisation.

“For several months we have made an independent voice heard, one that has exposed violence with concern for nothing but the truth. We have helped more than 250 endangered journalists and media all over the world, and I think we can be proud of that,” said Menard in the statement.

“But some Qatari officials never wanted an independent Centre, free to speak out without concern for politics or diplomacy, free to criticise even Qatar. How can we have any credibility if we keep quiet about problems in the country that is our host? Now the Centre has been suffocated. We no longer have either the freedom or the resources to do our work. This cannot go on. I was willing to make any necessary compromises as long as the foundations of our work – assistance grants, statements of opinion – were safeguarded. But that is no longer the case.”

The Financial Times reported last month on clashes between Menard and Qatari officials.

In his departing statement, Menard criticised the local authorities for hampering the centre’s efforts. He claimed that staff from the centre were being prevented from leaving the country and that payment of the centre’s budget, scheduled for April 1, had been repeatedly delayed.

“Sheikh Hamad refused to sign administrative documents that would have enabled the Centre to take in journalists under threat in their own countries, as originally planned. His office told us recently that giving shelter to journalists from countries such as Iran might go against Qatar’s diplomatic interests. This confirmed that the Centre’s independence was, in his eyes, a myth,” said Menard.

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Where does the BBC have bureaux and why?

Journalism.co.uk had been surprised to learn at last month’s Journalism in Crisis event that the BBC used only stringers to cover South America, according to director of news Helen Boaden.

The location of global bureaux ‘is something to do with your colonial past’ she said, adding to comments by BBC director-general Mark Thompson, when he was questioned by an irate audience member on the corporation’s lack of coverage in that part of the world (specifically Latin America).

Audio here:

Does the BBC really have no bureaux in Central and South America? Well, the BBC press office later told Journalism.co.uk, it depends how you define stringers and bureaux.

There is a distinction between ‘newsgathering hub’ bureaux and ‘non-hub’ regional bureaux the BBC spokesperson said. While there are no ‘newsgathering hub bureaux’ in South and Central Americas, there are four regional offices, located in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Havana. How many in each, Journalism.co.uk asked.

Two in each of the four cities: one producer and one local fixer, both on sponsored stringer contracts with retainers. Other individual stringers cover the rest of the continent other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, with freelancers working from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Chile and Jamaica.

It’s an interesting question: where are international news organisations’ bureaux and why? A particularly pertinent one to raise, given the difficulties in accessing material from Iran at the moment. The BBC office in Tehran remains open, but permanent correspondent Jon Leyne has been ordered to leave the country, the corporation reported yesterday.

While the BBC had two producers inside a Gaza office in 2008, it did not have any permanent crew on the ground and this affected its coverage of the crisis at the end of that year, and the early part of 2009.

It was helpful for Al Jazeera to have people already based in Gaza, as its two correspondents told Journalism.co.uk in a live-blog interview in April.

NB: Whether Al Jazeera were the ‘only’ English-language international broadcaster in the area for the 12-day media block is still a bone of contention: a journalist later reminded Journalism.co.uk that his employer, Iranian government-funded Press TV, was also reporting from the region during that period.

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Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum – how to follow the event

This week’s Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum (happening in Bonn from today till June 5) focuses on ‘conflict prevention in the multimedia age’.

Speakers including freelance journalists and representatives from Deutsche Welle and international media organisations will discuss the impact of new media on conflict reporting, the shift from traditional to multimedia coverage and the role of the media in peace and conflict reporting.

There’s a decent amount of coverage on the event’s own page – incorporating images from the event with a Flickr slideshow, a stream of Twitter updates and blog posts.

View the video message from conference host Erik Bettermann, director general of Deutsche Welle, below:

The event has its own Twitter channel (@DW_GMF updating in German) and you can follow delegates Guy Degen, broadcast journalist, Kevin Anderson, Guardian.co.uk blogs editor, and Yelena Jetpyspayeva, managing editor of Eurasia.net.

Alternatively take a look at the tweetstream for the hashtag #dwgmf at this link.

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