Archive for December 18th, 2007




We’re underway. The World Service is 75 today and WHYS is taking part in a series of programmes today that we’re calling the  ‘The Big Link Up’.  Read on for full details, including a guest list of people whop have been prevented from expressing their opinions. Continue reading ‘THE BIG LINK UP’


Your questions for the head of the BBC World Service

Hello, this is Leonardo here.

The Director of the BBC World Service, Nigel Chapman, has just come to the new WHYS office and answering to some of the questions you sent us. He didn’t have time for all of them, but was keen to come back, perhaps tomorrow.

Keep sending your questions, post here on the blog.

Chernor Jalloh asks:
Mr Chapman,  what does the BBC World Service 75th anniversary mean to you? And should there be a limit to free speech when it comes to religions?

Nigel Chapman: I’m very proud of the fact that the World Service is 75 today. I think it does a great job for millions of people all round the world and I want to make sure it goes from strength to strength. About the limits of free speech, I think we need to be careful to balance the right of people to speak out even about sensitive issues like a person’s religion but never to be offensive or rude or intolerant of people’s differences.

Abdelilah Boukili, in Morocco, asks:
The BBC is going to launch an Arabic TV channel. How distinct is this channel going to be vis-à-vis the existing Middle Eastern Arabic channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya?

What we want to make sure is that the BBC brings a very high quality international news service on television in Arabic to the Middle East. The BBC has a genuinely international perspective on the news and the big events in the world. It’s not rooted in the region itself like some of the channels you mention. I expect a wide agenda and also the ability to reveal news stories especially in the Middle East itself, but also right across the world.

Richard Cuff:
Has the BBC made it easier for governments to silence its voice by giving up short wave?

We haven’t given up on short wave. We still spend millions of pounds on it a year and two thirds of the World Service’s current audience listens on short wave. We always have to think about the fact that governments can take away FM licenses from the BBC and our partners but it’s very difficult to interfere with the reach and power of short wave. So, it’s very important that we keep short wave going where there is clear evidence that people are using it in significant numbers.  

ZK asks:
Mr Chapman, to what extent do you see the World Service playing a part in countries where the media is strictly controlled and in some cases the BBC banned (Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Cuba)?

It’s very important that the World Service keeps broadcasting to the countries you mention. Sometimes in English and sometimes also in a language which is relevant to that community. I get a lot of feedback from listeners who rely on the World Service in countries like Burma, Iran, which I recently visited, and right across Africa. We’re all very committed to keeping services for countries like these.  

Hisham asks:
How do you ensure independence from the government, especially the Foreign Office?

Because it’s part of the formal agreement between the BBC and the government and has been for many years. It’s arguably the most important thing about the World Service that it’s independent of all sorts of powerful forces and puts the needs of its audience first. That is proper public service. And it’s vital that we always defend our independence and never let particular groups try and hijack the agenda. 

Muhammad Asim Munir asks:
Dear Mr Chapman, how does the BBC ensure unbiased attitude towards Muslim communities around the world after 9/11?

We need to be very careful that we respect all the many points of view there are about contentious subjects like the world after 9/11 and the role of Muslim communities in it. We regularly monitor our output and always ask the question; are we reflecting these points of view properly and giving people the chance to express themselves and their point of view. At the heart of this is a respect for diversity. With so many of these issues there are not simple answers.

John D. Anthony asks:
When elected officials put their spin on a damaging news item, do you feel the press has the responsibility to speak truth to power and challenge their statements?

The  responsibility of the press is to get to the truth of things. Of course officials want to present the best possible picture and it’s our job to challenge them in a courteous way and ask penetrating questions. It is definitely not our job just to accept what people say – particularly people in power – at face value without very good reasons for it.

Tedla Asfaw, Ethiopian in NYC, USA asks:
Governments in Ethiopia and China are jamming VOA Service transmissions. If you are condoning jamming you are wasting tax payers money…

I don’t condone jamming. I want to make sure everybody who wants to listen to the World Service can do so. We always speak out as a broadcasting organisation to oppose jamming but sometimes our pleas fall on deaf ears. But we will always continue to make the case for openess and access in this area. What governments get wrong is the idea that you can keep the flow of information very tight in an age where more and more people have access to alternative forms of media other than the big state-run services. I always argue to them that trying to restrict access will not work in the end even though it might appear to be working at the moment.


Where you listen pt. 69

These just keep on coming. Three more emails from you about where you listen to the show, and read the Daily Email – this time from Egypt, The Falkland Islands and Baghdad. 

Continue reading ‘Where you listen pt. 69’


Five days / five presenters

For the first time that I can remember that’s what is happening next week. Here are the people who’ll keep you company… Continue reading ‘Five days / five presenters’


No show, lots of news

Hi everyone. Welcome to Daily Email new recruits Steve in London, Robin in New Zealand, Lee in North Carolina and Ellyn in Cleveland.

Despite having no show today there’s no shortage of things to mention. So without any further ado… Continue reading ‘No show, lots of news’


Suggest a show for next week


We are doing an item on celebrating at a time of tragedy – and thanks to Laura for getting in touch and taking part when we recorded it today. We’ll also be talking about the commercialisation of religious holidays on December 26th – that programme will be presented by Rahul Tandon in Calcutta. But the rest of the week is still up for grabs! 

Continue reading ‘Suggest a show for next week’