Is WHYS pre-occupied with America?

Here’s an email I’ve just received from Mwesigye who says he’s ‘won’t be tuning in tonight’. See if you agree with him.

‘Hi Ros,

I think there has been a lot of America on WHYS lately. I thought it covers the world issues…it’s becoming boring, Obama this, Obama that, America this, America that, even the most mundane topics are given prominence on this programme. For instance, yesterday was Founder’s Day in Ghana marking waht would have been 100th birthday of Kwame Nkrumah, there could have been a discussion on Pan Africanism and whether it is viable and achievable the way Pan Europeanism is apparently working in EU or whether this concept can work for Asia.

Apart from that we can reflect on feeding the world and the status of food security in different parts of the world in light of the passing of Norman Borlaug [Father of the Green Revolution] as a tribute.

Won’t be tuning in tonight


49 Responses to “Is WHYS pre-occupied with America?”

  1. 1 Dave in Florida
    September 22, 2009 at 15:28

    Oh my gosh, YES! Thank you Mwesigye.

  2. 2 Anthony
    September 22, 2009 at 15:41

    We (the US) are the rich, popular kids in the school with all the drama. Of course we’re gonna have the most attention.

    What one country effects the world more than the US?

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  3. 3 Jennifer
    September 22, 2009 at 15:42

    Re: Obama this, Obama that, America this, America that, even the most mundane topics are given prominence on this programme.

    I started to say substitute Obama……….but no need I see. 😀 But race is sure coming up alot. “Is this racist?”

  4. 4 Dileepa Prabhakar
    September 22, 2009 at 15:44

    Mwesigye probably didn’t realize that BBC’s World (pun intended) is made up of only Western Europe and North America.


  5. 5 Ros Atkins
    September 22, 2009 at 15:49

    Hi Mwesigye. Thanks for your email. I’m not sure it’s fair to say it’s non-stp Obama. Last week we broadcast three programmes from Rwanda, and the other ( we were off air on Tuesday) was about various celebrities mis-behaving. One of the three we focused on was Emanuel Adebayor who’s Togolese.

    All that said you’re right America and its leader does drive a great number of our discussions and that’s because as the world’s only superpower, people care more about what America does than any other country. Add to that, that Pres Obama had such popularity abroad when campaigning for office, means that people do get talking about him more than your average leader.

    One thing I think we need to be very careful about though is remembering that the Internet is not representative. There are many more bloggers per 1000 people in America than in Nigeria for instance. And it’s easier for us to notice discussions that are happening online. We must be very careful to also assess conversations that aren’t online.

    My final thought would be that we have to make sure that each day’s topic feels relevant and current to the vast majority of our listeners on the day we broadcast. I’m not sure Founders Day (which you mention) has sparked a global discussion about pan-Africanism, very interesting topic that it is. I can’t see the evidence for that but I’d be very interested to hear from you if you can show me otherwise.

    Thanks for your interest and thoughts on the show. They are always welcome, and we’d never be so bold as to claim we always get it right.

    • 6 Nigel
      September 22, 2009 at 16:35

      Two Americans and one Togolese who given the context of his reported indiscretion was essentially not Togolese at the time……..lets be fair.

    • 7 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Kampala,Uganda
      September 22, 2009 at 17:19


      Imagine Africa is the continent with only three programs since the beginning of this year i guess.From Tanzania to Ghana(was Obama too) then to Rwanda with the last programme in Kigali has a topic “We’re life on XYZ Hotel”.How many programme have lives this year alone in US esp about Obama?.I think there’s inequalities in program representation…………………

  6. 8 vijay pillai
    September 22, 2009 at 15:51

    i think whys should give equal coverage to news form around the world so it would be seen as really a voice of the world on world issues and not cherry picking on issues and comments to suit the taste of the people actually manning the whys.

  7. 9 Ros Atkins
    September 22, 2009 at 15:54

    @Dileepa – really? We’ve just been in Rwanda for three days. that’s in western europe or north america. in the last four years we’ve been to africa just as much as north america and hardly at all to western europe. and also when everyone’s talking about an america-led issue, would you rather we picked on another topic that is receiving less global attention?
    i’d like to understand how you think we should improve here.

  8. 10 Nigel
    September 22, 2009 at 15:56

    I think that there is a good range of subjects discussed in WHYS. Not all subjects are US based. However the American view dominates nearly all the discussions. You need to find a way to mix it up a bit more and find “in-studio” experts from different parts of the world. The call-ins are fine in any mix.

  9. 11 Tom K in Mpls
    September 22, 2009 at 15:56

    It goes in streaks. Yes the US is now starting to get attention. We are just easing out of an Africa stretch. Then before that was the social drama nonsense. And then there was the middle eastern elections.

    It’s funny what people will say when thy are in a bad mood.

  10. 12 patti in cape coral
    September 22, 2009 at 16:04

    I don’t know that WHYS is preoccupied with America, but I do think it might be one of many news entities that microanalize President Obama. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mr. Obama, but sometimes the world seems to get obsessed with him, why did he say that? what do you think he meant by that? do you think he will do that? dog lover or cat lover? boxers or briefs? My gosh! Admittedly, I don’t think that is all WHYS, he just seems to be over-exposed.

    Even though I feel I can comment more on the topics that are about the US, the ones I really find fascinating are the ones outside the US. The show in Rwanda was really fascinating. I think it is good for US people to tune in to shows about other places. We tend to be insular, and it is good to see what the whole wide world is thinking about. In any case, you guys do an amazing job, I’m addicted to WHYS!

    P.S. Ros, I still haven’t had a chance to check out that link about the global economic fall out show you guys did, but I will have some free time tonight. I hope it is still available.

  11. 13 David
    September 22, 2009 at 16:34

    Can some one explain what a super power is? Is it the country with most arsenal, most money, most ambitious attacking mood, or all those things combined?

  12. 14 vijay pillai
    September 22, 2009 at 16:38

    China’s action plan on climate change is a breakthrough which all nations should admire irrespective of whatever differences about their humanrights or support to errant nations. I think a topic on -is china’s pledge on Co2 and related policies a breadth of fress air or hot air ?
    china is a virtual superpower and need to be taken serioulsy since thet shored up the IMF few months ago at G20 and many more to come if we give coverage to this nation as well.China a fianancial superpower.

    • September 22, 2009 at 17:00

      Hi, it’s Helen from the WHYS team.
      Funny that you should ask for a programme on China’s action plan on climate change because I am currently planning a show on that topic for tomorrow. I am looking for Chinese people to come on the programme as guests – although it is proving difficult as it is 1am in China when the programme airs. I’m also going to be writing a blog on it soon so get back in touch if you have anymore thoughts on the topic.

  13. 16 gary
    September 22, 2009 at 16:39

    Curious question coming from a “world service,” and of course the answer is yes. However, it isn’t yes for the reason you may think. We are rich and influential and we don’t need BBC to tell us this. What we do need is to be influenced by the rest of the world. We have a loud voice; we are easy to hear. We (in the US) would derive the most benefit from listening to those without loud voices. So if you would do me the most good, don’t talk to me; inform me. Here I go, a Yank being selfish again…

  14. 17 Tom D Ford
    September 22, 2009 at 17:12

    I suspect that the Bush/Cheney group raised the world attention level an awful lot over the last eight years by causing trouble with their declaration of a New Crusades and with their PNAC, Project For The New American Century, Wars to Dominate the World.

    I hope that we can dial those back and get back to where the US tries to get along with the rest of the world instead of trying to dominate and bully everybody else.

    And that would allow the rest of the world some space for needed attention on WHYS and other media.

  15. 18 Julia in Portland
    September 22, 2009 at 17:25

    I believe that WHYS does try to keep a diverse library of topics – not just the U.S. and not just Western Europe.

    What I see in the listener responses sometimes is a negative when a subject is covered that someone might be sick of hearing about or is apathetic towards.

    You will always get some bad feedback along with the good.

    I admire how the WHYS Team tries to find topics that seem relevant on the whole and ones that people are abuzz about. It won’t always keep people happy – but I find even if I’m not totally into a subject I can learn something new from what is being discussed. There have been times when I was apathetic at the beginning of a show and then all fired up by the end of it. Those are the shows I appreciate the most.

    Thanks for your efforts!

    • 19 patti in cape coral
      September 23, 2009 at 13:10

      @ Julia- I absolutely agree, sometimes I don’t think I’m going to be interested, then by the end of the show I’m googling the subject to learn more about it.

  16. 20 VictorK
    September 22, 2009 at 17:48

    You do give that impression, just as you seem to have favourite subjects (e.g. open borders immigration into the West), people (Bush, Mugabe, and your political valentine Obama), and places (Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as the US).

    There’s nothing bad or out of the ordinary about most of this. The US is an important &, more to the point, an interesting country (unlike, I’m afraid, Ghana). Places like Afghanistan are live issues. What concerns me is that some topics – recurring or not – are treated from an entirely predictable point of view, without any freshness or originality. I don’t mind the emphasis on Obama and the US; I am dismayed, though, by the habitual treatment of Obama as a saint whose policy positions naturally commend themselves to all right thinking people, or the spirit of the Democratic party that too often inspires your approach to US issues. And you’ve allowed a similar charge to frighten you off Israel-Palestine (nothing about war crimes!).

  17. 21 John in Salem
    September 22, 2009 at 17:58

    If true (and I’m not sure it is), the amount of time WHYS spends focusing on American topics probably correlates closely to the number of shows with the historically highest amount of participation.

  18. 22 Mountain Adam, Portland, Oregon USA
    September 22, 2009 at 18:01

    The entire BBC is USA centric. WHYS is just a small part of that corporate culture.

  19. 23 Ron
    September 22, 2009 at 18:20

    Great point. Personally, i just don’t tune in when some of “these” topics are discussed. Borrriinng

  20. 24 T
    September 22, 2009 at 18:30

    Your not pre-occupied with it. However, a suggestion. Please stay away from the MSM urge to hype stories purely for ratings. Yes, while media is a business (even though the BBC has license fee revenue), you have a higher standard than the News of the World, no?

    • 25 RightPaddock
      September 23, 2009 at 13:58

      @T – the license fees paid by the British residents DO NOT fund the BBC World Service, they fund the BBC Domestic Service

      Outside of the US the BBC-WS is funded by the Foreign Office, in the US it is funded by fees paid by the TV & radio stations that rebroadcast its programs – unless you happen to listen on S/W radio.

  21. 26 Mountain Adam, Portland, Oregon USA
    September 22, 2009 at 19:04

    proof of my previous comment is in the BBC World Service News Hour. If you want to get in touch with them the on air host will tell you to email worldhaveyoursay@bbc.co.uk Having said that, I still listen to both programs as a regular if not devoted listener.

  22. 27 viola
    September 22, 2009 at 19:16

    Naturally, not everyone is interested in everything. I find discussions about celebrities behaving badly extremely boring. Otherwise, you guys always manage to interest me in the subjects. Even the African ones.

  23. 28 viola
    September 22, 2009 at 19:17

    Oh, well. Sometimes even those if you are able to ferret out the larger issues lurking in those stories.

  24. 29 Nelson Isibor
    September 22, 2009 at 19:48

    Some area’s/subjects are more newsworthy than others.
    Where the major talking point leads, WHYS follows (some times)
    That pretty much sums it up.

  25. 30 Jim Newman
    September 22, 2009 at 20:03

    Hello again
    I think that the USA is a very important country not for what it is but for it does.
    Indeed WHYS/BBC is very close to the USA almost to the point of adoration which of course makes any critism of the USA or it’s zionist friends a dire heresy.
    The BBC/WHYS seems to be full of understanding for the interests of the USA even when they contravene violently the interests of other countries.
    I think the saying ‘ the liberty of a person ends where the liberty of another person begins’ should be applied to international political interests.
    I was not just being cynical when I suggested that WHYS should spend a week in Palestine interviewing Palestinians and going ‘on air’ from a Palestinian pespective. After all we’ve had the zionist perspective pushed up our noses on many occasions.

    • September 24, 2009 at 12:04

      The interests of Israel as espoused by America so passionately in the guise of American interests abroad has always dominated world politics and world news. The scramble by world leaders for a photo opportunity to stand next to the American President or to be the first to shake hands with a newly elected President show the cult status of an American President in the eyes of the Western world. One other factor that makes it imperative to talk about America is that America’s finger prints can be found in every trouble spot in the world, and every ill wind, be it economic, political or social, that sweeps every corner of the world has its origin in America. So, I don’t entirely blame the WHYS team for focusing on America.

  26. 32 nora
    September 22, 2009 at 21:47

    Shows are generated by listeners and the US listener has to look more to BBC as our own public radio experience has been degraded. Yes, a lot of US lately, but huge changes in leadership are news anywhere.

    I would like to hear more about Latin America, which has changed so much and is changing every day. I would like to hear more from India, Jamaica, Indonesia, Italy, Basque country….

    As to UScentrism: The Lockerbie show could have been more balanced and interesting with a more Scottish cast and less American airtime. As a Scottish-American I am, of course, totally unbiased and balanced in my logic.

    More, more, more. We want more of everything because we are hungry human with chewing brains. Thanks so much for Rwanda.

  27. 33 Nigel
    September 22, 2009 at 22:57

    @ Ros,

    Today’s show had an interesting list of five countries from which the ‘experts” were drawn. However 40% were American and apart from the topic-neutral items the real points of debate were discussion over different views of the same central American theme on what really is a global problem that is larger than just Obama’s view.

  28. 34 Dennis Junior
    September 23, 2009 at 11:07

    No, WHYS is not being pre-occupied with America; It will go away for a while and some other news story will break and the show will do that for a long period of time….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  29. 35 Ros Atkins
    September 23, 2009 at 12:21

    @Nigel. Hi Nigel. We had five main guests – one from India, one from Israel, and one from Russia for starters. Then we spent several hours trying to get an expert on North Korea and China who was in that part of the world. Because of the time we broadcast that wasn’t possible so we booked Clayton Dube who specialises in those countries but was in the States. Then No. 5 was a Professor in Chicago giving his perspective. For a discussion about nuclear disarmament, that doesn’t feel too far from the mark. And while of course talked about America (the conversation was sparked by a story about the Obama administration) we also heard plenty of anaylsis of why regional considerations are very important as well. We don’t alwsy get our balance right, but I thought we did OK yesterday.

    • 36 Nigel
      September 23, 2009 at 17:36

      Hi Ros

      North Korea and China would have been really good. Good show though not whitstanding the US.centered central theme. Keep it up.

  30. 37 scmehta
    September 23, 2009 at 13:33

    Not that it matters to any one. The problem is we talk too much and do too little; “WHY” not talk while doing something or not talk when doing nothing or being good for nothing ?

  31. September 23, 2009 at 13:47

    Hello Ros, Not long ago there were complaints that everything WHYS did was on Israel,now it seems it’s America catching the headlines! I’m reasonably new to WHYS but as far as I am concerned it is a global programme. I think that WHYS does a good job.

  32. 39 RightPaddock
    September 23, 2009 at 13:52

    Its not only the BBC which is obsessed with the US, is there a more narcissist country than the US, I suspect not, but a close run second might be the British.

    Unusually the BBC runs its US operations on a FOR PROFIT basis by selling its programs to re-broadcasters. It is the only market that generates a profit for the BBC World Service – whilst it does charge in other markets, its income falls far below the it’s costs in those markets

    Most of the rest of the world receives the BBC courtesy of the British taxpayer, . before the British protest, that’s NOT licence fees, they fund the the BBC domestic services, exclusively. The World Service, with the exception of its US operations are funded from the Foreign Office budget, which also funds MI6, the British Council, Embassy’s and High Commissions etc.

    So given that the US is the BBC-WS’s only source of independent wealth it is little wonder that its services should have a bias towards that market.

    As some of the US bloggers have said the US has more influence than any other country, that would be OK if were not for the fact that so many of them are so ignorant of so much of the rest of the world. Its not just me that thinks that, its people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Benjamin R. Barber, George Schultz, Arlene Stein and P.J. O’Rourke.

    But I guess its wrong to expect too much of a country where 40% of the population believes that the world is less than 10,000 years old!

    • 40 patti in cape coral
      September 23, 2009 at 15:24

      @RightPaddock – The world is over 10,000 years old?!? ;0)

      Kind of a harsh assessment, but I’m sure your numbers are right.

  33. 41 Kelly from Chicago
    September 23, 2009 at 14:49

    As an American, I was very surprised to see so many topics covering American issues or the American influence on the world when I started following this blog and listening to the podcast. Like Patti, I read/listen to get different points of view. I think it’s really stellar that there are so many commenters from Africa and India.

    Maybe this is dense, but I don’t understand the rest of the world’s fascination with America in general. When Obama was running and people all over the world were supposedly wild about him, I kept asking myself why. Even if America used to be a super power, or still is, I think it is due time for us to give someone else the torch, but we can only start to do that when other nations pick it up.

  34. September 23, 2009 at 23:16

    I used to listen to the podcast every day untill several months ago. At some point WHYS started to sound like a real american show. More and more participants from the states, more american themes.
    Once upon a time in the show the bad phone connection with somewhere in Africa and Asia would not be such big of a probem, but now people get easily cut-off the air in favor of the better phone connections with the states.
    I know the USA is a big and important market, but I feel WHYS lost it’s “mojo” while trying to please americans too much.

  35. September 23, 2009 at 23:26

    And to add to that – there was a time, when every minute in the show there was some new point and a new way to look at the the topic discussed. Sometimes it happened that I would change my mind on something just because of the arguments I hear and it was a really dynamic and enriching conversation.
    Now I find myself listening for 20-30 minutes to people, that talk too much and say nothing and I just start listening to something else.

  36. 44 Dennis Junior
    September 24, 2009 at 17:46

    I think that the WHYS is not pre-occupied with the U.S. since, The recent has been from the U.S. because there has been more stories that can be made into shows……

    =Dennis Junior=

  37. 45 paul
    September 24, 2009 at 18:03

    The attention is not altogether misplaced.The stance of the US greatly influences a number of significant international arenas.

    However I suspect more attention needs paying to emerging great powers like China, Japan, Germany and India

  38. September 24, 2009 at 18:26


    I think you can see that several people agree with me. I commend BBC for covering a number of positive stories in news and non-news programmes but my issue is with WHYS.

    America being a super power and Obama being popular would just be an excuse…..you can’t disagree that if something happened in China or India, Iran or North Korea, BBC wouldn’t be on it all day. Much as the internet coverage may be denser in US vis-a-vis Nigeria, as a journalist (and your BBC colleagues) who has travelled to many parts of the world you know that there are many stories that are not given significance but would strike a chord with listeners in different parts of the world

    I hope you remember the time WHYS came to Kampala (where I stay) and broadcast a programme from someone’s house, or that time you were in Kibera slum in Nairobi after the post-election violence, or getting Israeli and Palestine youth to talk to each other, from a stadium (was it?) where Boys Scouts were having a jamboree in UK, or in a town called Truth or Consequences (?)….That is the WHYS I miss!


  39. 47 paul
    September 25, 2009 at 17:57

    I have ponderered Mwesigye’s comments again & am left with a nagging doubt that sometimes we watch the world stage too much & perhaps lose the common touch. I reflected on the reminder of Nkrumah & remember when it suited the Daily Telegraph it devoted column inches denigrating him to the exclusion of much else . World Service also said enough, perhaps at the instigation of the Foreign Office . We were then concerned with our fast dismantling Empire/Commonwealth & not the World.

  40. September 27, 2009 at 08:37

    I used to be a great fan of the U.S. till my 17th. year, what with Elvis, rock-n-roll Hollywood etc. Then I started listening to shortwave radio. By the way I live in India. Coming back to radio, I found V.O.A. only full of blatant anti-communist propaganda. I’ve had a steady dislike for the U.S. since then. That was 40 years ago, I still listen to the BBC. Today of course I know that the English language itself is a medium of British propaganda but at least they make it more intelligent and subtle.

  41. 49 mohammad
    October 9, 2009 at 18:19

    Al Gore got it for a slideshow.
    The prize is politically driven more than anything, these days

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