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BBC faces attack from both sides

September 17th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Comment

“At a time when the government’s Digital Britain report has argued that the licence fee should be ‘top-sliced’ and shared with the BBC’s competitors, the corporation finds itself unusually short of friends and increasingly vulnerable,” George Eaton wrote on NewStatesman.com at the beginning of September, following James Murdoch’s attack on the BBC in Edinburgh.

Furthermore, ‘with a Tory party increasingly sceptical of the BBC’s size and scale on the brink of power, the corporation faces the threat of a powerful alliance between Cameron’s Conservatives and Murdoch’s News Corporation,’ he suggested.

But it’s not just the Conservatives it needs to worry about: yesterday the corporation found itself attacked again – this time by the culture secretary (and former BBC reporter) Ben Bradshaw (speech in full at this list) who said the BBC has probably reached its size limit, the licence fee could be reduced, and that the trust model might not be ‘sustainable’.

The chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons is defensive of the BBC (a position criticised by Bradshaw last night: ‘I know of no other area of public life where (…) the same body is both regulator and cheerleader’) and wants to speak directly to the licence fee payers.

Last week, for example, the chairman chose to issue an ‘open letter’ (or as MediaGuardian accurately pointed out, a press release) on the BBC website with evidence of licence fee payer support for the corporation.

Asked on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning why he bypassed the government with this statement, he said:

“Well how else do I communicate with the people that I am charged by the charter with representing? I am not charged with obeying ministers, I am charged with protecting the independence of the BBC and representing the licence fee payer.”

The chairman issued this statement this morning, defending the Trust:

“The next Charter Review [of the Trust] is many years down the line [2017] and we should be judged on our performance then. In the meantime, we have been set up to be, as the then secretary of state put it in 2006, ‘the voice, eyes and ears of licence fee payers’.

“That means reshaping the BBC; defending its strength and independence; and also protecting the investment licence fee payers have made, and if that means upsetting a minister along the way, it is unfortunate but so be it.”

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Walter Cronkite: death of America’s ‘most trusted’ news voice

July 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism

WalterCronkite1-799355America has lost a top celebrity anchorman, whose news delivery was so influential, he came to be called ‘the most trusted man in America’.

He died peacefully at his home, on Friday July 17, at the age of 92.

Walter Cronkite was an anchorman for CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, reading news including a wide range of historical events: the moon landings, Watergate, John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the Vietnam war.

He had a reassuring manner of delivering the news that inspired confidence and trust in the audience. Every evening 70 million Americans heard him deliver his broadcast, which invariably concluded with the parting words “And that’s the way it is.”

He was born Walter Leland Cronkite Jr on November 4th, 1916 in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of a dentist. As a teenager, his family moved to Houston, where he had his first junior reporter job at The Houston Post – and at the same time delivering the very paper for which he worked.

Known for his trademark clipped moustache and grave voice, he was affectionately known as Uncle Walt, owing to a resemblance to Walt Disney. Despite his popularity, Cronkite was uncomfortable with his celebrity status and declined a proposal for a Walter Cronkite fan club saying: “I don’t think news people ought to have fan clubs.” He also brushed aside suggestions for him to stand for vice-president, even president. The only job he had ever wanted was that of reporter.

No amount of friendship or adulation could compromise Cronkite’s journalistic integrity. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “When I wanted to make a point Cronkite was the first person I would call. I was sure I was getting a fair interview – tough but fair.”

Some of Cronkite’s finest moments:

  • 1963: Assassination of President John F . Kennedy: Walter Cronkite famously displays a rare show of emotion, taking off his glasses to fight back tears as he announces the death of President Kennedy. Video below:

  • 1968: Vietnam War: After visiting Vietnam in 1968, he called the war ‘a stalemate’ and made his pro-peace stance clear. His views were so influential that, having watched the broadcast, the then US President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said, “I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Two weeks later  Johnson resigned and announced he would not stand for re-election. Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam War.
  • 1977: Cronkite’s interview with Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin led to Sadat visiting Jerusalem and signing the peace accords the following year at Camp David.

Cronkite retired from from the CBS evening news programme in 1981, handing it over to Dan Rather, but continued producing special reports for the CBS network and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour. In 1983 he covered the general elections in the UK for ITV and interviewed Margaret Thatcher.

He is survived by a son, two daughters and four grandsons.

Useful related links:

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Ben Bradshaw: why the obsession with the Today programme?

June 29th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

In an interview with Jane Merrick in the Independent on Sunday, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Ben Bradshaw, questioned (very briefly) an ‘obsession’ with the Today programme:

“Ministers, he [Bradshaw] says, must be answerable to Parliament first: “If that’s difficult for the Today programme – tough. The BBC will have to change its news timings to fit in with the new respect that we’re going to give Parliament. Why this obsession with the Today programme? Why should we be dancing to the tune of the BBC, of Radio 4’s news agenda?””

Full interview at this link…

Via Press Gazette.

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OMC09: No Andy, the NUJ wouldn’t like it

January 22nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Jobs

UK secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Andy Burnham, told the Oxford Media Convention today that his first job after leaving university was on a local paper – he’s well equipped to address the issue of the ailing industry then.

Especially, as he admitted, he was brought onto the paper to replace a redundant staff member. What’s more, he worked unpaid.

Not sure the National Union of Journalists would have liked that, he added – not a lot, Andy, not a lot.

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Baldy blogger’s campaign goes to government

May 20th, 2008 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Regional newspaper journalist and blogger Adrian Sudbury’s campaign to encourage more bone marrow donors will be heard by government ministers only 24 hours after its official launch.

Sudbury, digital journalist with the Huddersfield Examiner, has spoken openly about his battle with leukaemia on Baldy’s Blog, recently telling readers he only has weeks to live following a relapse of the disease.

In his latest post he explained that his dying wish was to ‘educate more people about what it is like to be a bone marrow donor’.

The Examiner has taken on Sudbury’s challenge by launching an official campaign, which will now see the journalist address health minister Alan Johnson and Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, schools and families, at Westminster, the paper reports.

At the meeting, he will explain the system in Germany, where school children are educated about bone marrow donation as part of their curriculum.

All the best Adrian – we will be thinking of you.

UPDATE – The Examiner has now posted a video of Adrian’s meeting with Gordon Brown.

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