Your questions, our answers

If you’re in London and can hear whimpering and pleas for forgiveness, that’s the sound of our colleague Paul Coletti who offered to film us answering your questions, and then cancelled five minutes after we were due to start. The road back into the warm bosom of WHYS will be a long and arduous one. Anyway, at least you don’t haev to look at me. Here are  some replies to the questions you sent in, including to all 13 from Abdelilah.

John in the US

Would you consider setting a limit on the size of the comments submitted? Something like 500 words or less? There’s a lot less tendency to ramble when there’s a limited space. Ros: I’m not sure we’re going to set a limit but just as I say on air ‘this is a conversation, not a series of speeches’, the same applies on the blog. If someone is clearly intent on publishing an essay rather than entering a dialogue then we won’t approve it. But on air we don’t set specific limits, we use our judgement and we hope to the same online.

Lubna in Baghdad

If I want to be the one who’s reading out the messages of the WHYS listeners during the programme on air, then what qualities should I have?!

Ros: Well you need two things. You need to be able to read out loud well, and you need to be in London. You’ve one out of two Lubna, but getting you from Iraq to Bush House might be more difficult. You never know though.

Will in California

Do the WHYS team feel they are completely unbiased in what they produce? Do they feel that they have to be seen as controversial to gain listeners or do they feel that they have to strive for neutrality on all matters?

Ros: Neutrality runs through BBC journalists and I’ve never heard anyone suggest we take one side or another. But to claim we are completely neutral is perhaps to be naïve about the human condition. Suffice to say it is our goal and I’d like to think we get pretty close. (If a BBC host gave away their opinions on air, they’d be out the door in a flash.) And no, we would never seek to be controversial to pull in listeners.

From Abdelilah in Morocco:

1) Do you check the originality of the comments you put on the blog. Some may, although it is a very rare possibility, copy comments from other articles and attribute them to themselves?

We don’t check every message’s originality but you can tell quite easily when someone is copying and pasting. If we spot that, it doesn’t get published.

2) There are some people who contribute on the blog without revealing where they are from. I am sure when you receive their comments you know where they are. Can you add their location at the bottom of their comments?

We can’t tell where people are. We do encourage people to say but if they don’t there’s nothing we can do about. We wouldn’t publish someone’s whereabouts against their will anyway.

3) There are contributors who don’t reveal their real names. They use just pseudo names. Are real names important? On my part, I put my very real full name!

Real names aren’t important. If people feel comfortable using an online name that is fine.

4) Can you put every show or at least part of it on Youtube? I think some are curious to know what the atmosphere is like when the show is on air.

We’re looking in to doing a lot more video than we do at the moment. I’m not sure about every show, but certainly some of them.

5) Do you keep an archive of the conversations you have with people before they come on air? Can you publish some remarkable ones?

We don’t and I don’t think  we would want to. If people have a contribution to make we invite them to comment on the blog or the programme. If they don’t want to, we’ll leave it at that.

6) The show lasts one hour. How much time do you spend contacting those who like to be on the show?

We get in 7 hours before going on air, and start contacting people after we’ve picked our subject/s. So we have around 6 hours on a normal day.

7) Do you still have a two-part edition of the show or is this limited just to summer time? ( I had the occasion of taking part in the second edition of the show twice without being able to listen to it as in Morocco, only the first part is broadcast at 17:00 GMT). In the second part of the show do you keep the same guests in the first one or do you get new ones?

We have two editions during British Summertime. Sometimes we invite a guest onto both editions, sometimes we don’t. There’s no rule. No-one hears both editions though so we do occasionally hear someone making a similar comment in each hour.

The daily show preparation and presentation starts from the morning. Does the show presenter keep presence in the studio since the debate starts?

I go into the studio around 30 minutes before we go on air. Other than that I am with the rest of the team in the office.

9) Do BBC correspondents outside UK help you get contributors to the show? If not how do you get to contact people in highly censored countries like Cuba?

We get help from BBC staff all around the world.

10) How many local radio stations outside UK transmit the show, in addition to those in the USA?

We broadcast on Kiss FM in Tanzania and Thetha FM in South Africa.

11) I am sure you get a lot of comments everyday. On average, how many comments do you get daily?

There’s not really an average day but most fall between 100 and 1000 comments.

12) Will you reveal statistics of the comments you get as in Have Your Say by showing the number of total comments received, those published and those rejected?

No. We don’t have that facility on our blog.

13) And finally when will the old/ original blog be repaired or is the current one going to be it definite replacement?

We’ve got a meeting tomorrow about just that. We will move back to the BBC and leave WordPress behind but only when we are sure that the BBC one will work.

Dennis in New York

1) Does WHYS changed its programme when a BREAKING NEWS story happens?

Yes, the World service would interrupt any regular programming if a story of sufficient important broke.

2) What happens when the BBC has a power outage…or computers crash?

We have a lot of systems to stop this affecting the people who are on air. If need be though we just print out the scripts.

10 Responses to “Your questions, our answers”

  1. 1 Will Rhodes
    February 13, 2008 at 16:45

    “Will in California”? Tisk! I am in Canada >.-

    ‘Ros: Neutrality runs through BBC journalists and I’ve never heard anyone suggest we take one side or another.’

    Take into account that I am an ex-pat, I cannot relate to that answer, Ros. The BBC has been claimed to have a political agenda of left-wing liberalisation and bias in quite a few of the papers in Britain. Please understand that I completely disagree with them and I have always found the BBC to be as neutral as possible.

  2. 2 Joey
    February 14, 2008 at 00:36

    We need a voice from China on this “world” forum. I started listening because you guys are so good to get people involved from Africa and also the travel shows in India showed they were happy to converse, which is rare.

    Today’s show on pain is a perfect example. So what can we do to get more people from China involved, and don’t say you’ve tried and noone wants to represent their country. The younger english speaking chinese I’ve met, really love to converse.

    So I mean the American acupuncturist living in Britain or wherever(I don’t remember) he went to study acupuncture in China right, why not have a person from China next time? This guy was a good guest, but we don’t get much involvement from India either, unless it’s a purely Indian subject.
    A chinese guy said in the blog yesterday, that we should leave china to the chinese. Probably a good idea, but that doesn’t mean we can’t welcome them to us, and the BBC is the best, so I hope it happens!
    A young chinese english speaking Lubna that is….
    Thank you
    Colorado, USA

  3. 3 ZK
    February 14, 2008 at 09:48

    A real problem to that, of course, is that the BBC is heavily censored/banned in China…

  4. 4 Ros Atkins
    February 14, 2008 at 17:27

    Will – I meant that I’ve never heard anyone inside the BBC suggest we take a slant one way or another. Of course the accusation that we have a left-wing bias has been made in numerous quarters. Sorry about getting your whereabouts wrong.

  5. 5 ZK
    February 15, 2008 at 06:43

    By the way, Ros, about the two-hour shows in the summer, do both hours then get put onto the podcast? If it’s just one, who decides which hour goes on it?

  6. 6 Xie_Ming
    February 15, 2008 at 18:18

    Being conditioned to thirty-second soundbyte expression could make one adverse to essays. Is the following too much of an essay?

    The media person is not trained to function as priest or prophet but, as a function of his popularity, this becomes his role. The media, however, must entertain and excite, producing for short attention spans.

    Television functions as religion. Is television as the primary expression of moral attitudes and values in today’s society.?

    Television offers a religion of instant, infantile, personal gratification in an imaginary world. Such a religion is completely at variance with ideals of altruism, transcendence, and community.

    Media have established false values. In a perceptive article in the New Yorker, “Within the Context of No Context” (Nov. 17, 1980), G. W. S. Trow offered several insights about the action of the media in modern American society. Some of these ideas:

    counting takes the place of judgment;

    only things that could be counted were important; those things with high counts were boosted even more;

    people sought a false intimacy for reassurance;

    the culture acted in a childish way;

    news is mostly reported without history or context for judgment.

    [Let me call attention to that final phrase above]

  7. June 24, 2008 at 17:10


    this is Binfodle from Somalia

    My question is “how do i know that you get my question?” second “how do you see somalia crises”?

  8. 8 Paul
    October 24, 2008 at 14:00

    How can I pose my picture like the other users?

  9. 9 Anthony
    August 21, 2009 at 18:26

    How many people listen to WHYS? I tried looking online, but I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  10. September 26, 2009 at 17:27

    i am over 70.paid in my tv/radio licence since it started.all the bbc tv&radio shows i have helped to pay for now i would like to be able to listen again to some of bbc radio old archives.shows.which inthe war time before tv.1940 to 1954.now in america.you can download all there archives radio and tv shows in audio.if you want there email address can give it to you. hundreds of them all for free.but in england, not forgeting we paid already for them.it seems we have to pay for them again.now there are very more then you think old age pensioners out there.(all saying that the bbc wonr give the licence payer anything for free).some our heros from the second world war who would love to hear again ther old favourites like paul temple .workers playtime.its that man again.man in black.i can go on and on.why if the bbc have these shows in there archives,why cant they let us listen to them again.it would not be costing them anything.but to put them on a website for us old age pensioners to download would give them more respect.and they will show they know we are out there waiting for some compastion from them.which i believe we should have.they have shelves and shelves of these shows which use to be broadcast for all of us to listen to during and after the war .young people dont want to hear them they are for older people with memories.of there time.(remember they say there are more old people out there now then any otherv time.)so please please lets have them played again for us.if you go into any old peples homes you will find them thinking about these shows .and talking about them and what they were doing at the time they came out.so come on wake up for us.what would it cost them to put them on a free website.and let the older people know what a good bbc radio programs you have for them.waiting your reply.dont say you will have to pay again for them.lets be real.thank you, waiting for your response all of us in our old retirement.if you email me i will pass it on to the old age peoples club.they are all waiting.thousands of them

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