Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It's the UK Not the USA Which Needs to Look Beyond Its Borders

I've just spent half an hour on Crane Durham's Nothing But the Truth on 97.1 FM Talk in St Louis Missouri. Crane is a right wing talk show host and I guess in this country we try to pigeonhole shows like this as rabid right wing rants and because we're used to the liberal slant of the BBC we tend to look down our noses at them. But how many UK radio shows would spend half an hour talking about North Korea and China with someone on the line from another country? Answer, none. We all think the USA is very insular and that Americans can't see beyond their own borders. That caricature needs destroying. If anything, it is we who should be examining ourselves.

Foreign news coverage in our newspapers is lamentable and declining. Yesterday's Daily Telegraph had two and a half pages of foreign news. TV programmes on world politics are rarer than a sighting of John Prescott doing some work and even Radio 4 is increasingly insular. Things have come to a pretty pass when I'm considering taking out a subscription to the International Herald Tribune, the only newspaper available in this country which gives an all-round unbiased coverage of what's happening throughout the world. Country of origin? The United States.

13 comments:

ContraTory said...

There is a lot of foreign coverage when it involves a disaster or some senior reporter's (sorry, correspondent's)hobby-horse - especially when the Americans or Israelis have purportedly done something wrong. Then it goes on and on and on...

Neil Craig said...

I entirely agree Iain. Since the net is not bound by borders I regret that UK bloggers almost exclusively report on what the Guardian etc say, rarely on the Wall St journal & never on Asia Times. Our media don't stand well by the comparison.

Kipling wrote "who knows England who only England knows" which would get him lynched at Ibrox.

james said...

I'm disappointed by the short-sightedness of what could otherwise be an excellent piece with a point to make.

The answer to the 'how many UK radio shows...' question is not 'none', I can assure you.

Whilst it wasn't in the recent few months, I managed to catch a very interesting insight into North Korea on a Radio 4 programme one evening, discussing it with one or two commentators, notably one journalist from the US who had had the curious pleasure of visiting the pariah state.

I understand that this programme was part of a theme of programmes on the region and I understand that quite often, Radio 4 don't restrict participation to those with a British tongue.

Otherwise, for programmes of an international flavour on television, one only needs to look at the series of 'China' documentaries running on BBC Two at the moment. How much programming would you like dedicated to communist states?

For all the accusations of a 'liberal bias', I will still staunchly defend what is broadly a large organisation with a variety of flavours, producing the best programming in Europe, if not the world.

The problem you should be discussing is not the general sympton of the radio industry (at least, the commercial aspect of it), but the cause of the problem. In my inexperienced and humble opinion, I think regulation by Ofcom (and previously the Radio Authority) and an inert creative dynamic by the larger media companies has a lot to answer for.

A limited availability of licences often means that only those best placed to bid for the licence will will. Otherwise, licenceholders are conceited with the knowledge that, so long as they stick to the minimum requirements of the charter they broadcast with, they don't have to take any creative risks or produce anything challenging- they have the monopoly of that licence. Quite a different situation in the US, I'm sure you'll agree.

Otherwise, well done with the choice of the IHT (though I tend to stick to the website). Don't you find the editorials a little bit scary sometimes, though?

Mr Eugenides said...

I think that's fair comment. However, I would make a case for what is, admittedly, a rather niche programme: Radio 5's "Up All Night", which runs from 1am till 5am.

This programme has been running since the station was set up and they devote a significant proportion of their time to covering stories around the globe, particularly North America and Australia. These are not always major news stories but they will often interview people on the line, and in depth.

In general terms I agree, though, that foreign coverage is poor here.

Rick said...

Don't ever listen to BBC World Service - it carries programmes about everywhere but Britain so much so that foreigners write in complaining that they learn nothing about British Culture.

Still if you are interested in the US, Soweto, or anywhere that isn't Britain you can hear how the Foreign Office spends your money promoting other countries

Tory Historian said...

The Trib is quite good but not unbiased, linked as it is closely to the New York Times. If you really want to know what is going on in the world, the newspaper to go for is the Wall Street Journal Europe.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, the BBC World Service is not only dreadful, but it is hard socialist, left wing drivel. The accents of the newsreaders and journalists are incomprehensible to people with English as a second language - and, indeed, to many native English speakers. There is an endless emphasis on hard rock,socially conscious pop music - to show how trendy Britain is, I suppose - although few people tune in to the World Service for a dose of trendiness.

When I lived in Singapore, I was amazed to realise that the news is agenda-laden (hard left), they blame Britain for everything that's not right in the world - to demonstrate their breadth of understanding and the generosity of their souls; the whole organisation's run by mahatamas - and their commentators are such that the minute the plangent Fergall Keane or Orla Guerrin came on, I could race out of one room, negotiate a hallway and turn into another room without my feet once touching the floor in my haste to get to the Off switch.

The current regime - let's say the last 20 years or so - has squandered a reputation for excellence.

I have contempt for the BBC. It is creaking, long-outdated Soviet claptrap. And they are actively working towards the destruction of Britain.

- Anonymousette

Tom said...

Last time I picked up a copy of the WSJE it was about the most biased newspaper I've ever read (this was in IIRC 2004 when flag-waving about Iraq was still fashionable). I'd rather read the Telegraph.

Iain, being a German speaker, do you take any of their periodicals (such as Die Welt)? Speaking personally, it's a good way to exercise the brain in a different direction.

david simpson said...

actually I think The Week gives much the best global coverage (and it only takes two hours to read). But I like media-lite

david simpson said...

actually I think The Week gives much the best global coverage (and it only takes two hours to read). But I like media-lite

Dr. Freling said...

O.K maybe foreign reporting isn't easily accessible but it is out there.

Iain has a list of American blogs, you can download all of World Service programmes and I'm sure there are American, Austrian, Canadian and new Zealand equivalents.

I'm sure all the American, Austrian, Canadian and New Zealand papers have rss feeds.
If you want foreign affairs you can get foreign affairs.

Tory Historian said...

Well, Tom, maybe you should pick the WSJE again and read the many many pages of news not just the four pages of opinion. Opinion is always biased but the proportion of how much news from all over the world to opinion is more sensible than that of numerous other papers in this country.

Anonymous said...

Its true, British media is increasingly insular - try and find some international news on the Today programme, for example. But its a joke to suggest that things are better in the US, where there is simply no international coverage on network news. The BBC still has the best overall international coverage on electronic media, and the Economist is still the best weekly around. Just a pity we don't have a serious daily newspaper in this country any more.