Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Here is the News.......

For the past fifteen years or so, the English speaking world has obtained its global news and information from two main sources. The United States based news channel, CNN, and the London based BBC. Both have done a more than adequate job of relaying events and happenings in an objective manner but, inevitably, have both been subjected to the limitations that apply to us all when we claim to be objective.

It’s a bit like criticism. Everybody claims they want it but nobody really does. “Tell me, honestly,” is an open invitation for you to lie blatantly.

To claim to have absolutely no personal feelings or opinions concerning a subject is an obvious nonsense, unless you are possibly a vegetable and even a lettuce might have some ideas of its own, so it is safe to say that all the news purveyed has been, to some extent, as seen from the viewpoint of either the United States or Great Britain. Although both are officially independent of officialdom, they are both, in different ways, obligated to toe the line to their respective governments.

Thus, when earlier this year, an upstart Arabic broadcasting station, Al Jazeera, went global, a few feathers were ruffled, not the least in Turkeyville, where their transmission of videos allegedly from Al Quaeda apparently led the president to suggest that a couple of stray missiles should be sent their way. Although no doubt he had been told by God to do it, fortunately wiser heads prevailed and Al Jazeera, probably thought by him to have been run by a guy called Al, has gone from strength to strength, not only in the Arab world but also in the English speaking community. Their status as a news organisation has led to many seasoned reporters defecting to them.

This evening, France launches an ambitious programme, TV 24, on similar lines. For a long time, president Jacques Chirac has grumbled that the English speaking world only hears news as disbursed by Britain or the United States. His own many and often sensible attempts to intervene in world affairs have been submerged and thus gone unnoticed. TV 24 is designed to present, much in the way that Al Jazeera presents news from an Arab viewpoint, the attitude of France.

It will not be, however, a government mouthpiece. Ownership of the station has been split between government subsidy and private investment with strict rules that there shall be no input from government on its content. Much of the format will be that familiar to many French viewers, the round table discussion, an extension of the sort of conversations that take place daily in bar-tabacs and dining rooms around the nation.

But for the first time, many of these will be conducted bi-lingually, in English and French. Arabic is planned to be added early next year.

The BBC, who seem to have taken a slight dose of umbrage over the idea, hardly ran the inauguration of the service with banner headlines, consigning it to one of their sidebars on the website. Sniffily they said, “Ironically, this French station will be broadcasting in English.” As the whole object of the exercise was to reach English speaking people, it’s hard to see what was so ironic about it. The BBC are proud of the fact that they broadcast to the world in more tongues than the Tower of Babel had on a good day, and so they should be. It’s a marvellous service – but it still relays the news as seen from a British standpoint.

So good luck to TV 24 and Al Jazeera. Once more, the BBC had to point out that it was to run on a mere shoestring compared with CNN. And so it may be, but they have attracted some of the brightest and best multi-lingual talent in the news gathering business.

And I remember when CNN started up and was about the same size. The other stations referred to it, disparagingly, as “The Chicken Noodle Network.”

I wonder what they call it now?


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