Over There (in the UK)

March 31, 2006 at 2 PM

The Beeb at Home and Away

The BBC has a well-earned reputation for its international news coverage. It is one of the most reliable and informative sources for world events, maintaining a high level of integrity and balance in its coverage. Indeed in many less democratic countries, the BBC World Service is one of the only worthwhile sources of news.

It’s interesting then to observe that the BBC is an entirely different beast inside its own waters than when observed overseas. The BBC in Britain caters to a different audience, and and its coverage is tempered by a different set of competitors — the other British TV networks and the British press, especially the ever-popular tabloids. As such, BBC’s news coverage within the country is unblinkingly Britain-centric, and the scope is more concerned with typical national issues: crime, health care, immigration and political scandal.

To be fair, there is still one foreign topic that all British media believe captivates the British audience, and the BBC is right there at the front of the pack: coverage of American celebrities.

Consider, if you will, this snapshot of the BBC News homepage — first the international version, second the UK version — and what they’ve chosen to feature in the “Video and Audio” section.

BBC International News BBC UK News



That’s hilarious. I just got Sirius satellite radio in the car. It has BBC Radio 1, BBC World, and BBC Mundo. I was surprised to learn just how much BBC1 caters to a youth-oriented audience: all hit music, wacky announcers, contests, the lot. The top story yesterday on NewsBeat was that because Wembley stadium wasn’t finished, the Take That concert had been moved to another venue. This was the TOP STORY.

I just assumed BBC Radio 1 was equivalent to CBC Radio 1.

World Service and BBC Radio 1 are worlds apart. Interesting that there is so much variance from a single broadcaster.

John | Mar. 31, 2006 — 4 PM

It’s not quite as bad as you think. The difference for radio is that there are five FM/AM BBC stations. BBC Radio 1 is as you described it — top 40 — but Radio 4 is very similar to CBC Radio 1. It’s their current affairs/arts/variety station (“Intelligent Speech”), and from what I can gather, it’s very popular with the same type of audience as CBC Radio 1 is in Canada.

They also have Radio 2, which is a more “adult” music selection (but still pop), Radio 3 which is classical, jazz, etc., and “Five Live”, which is the more working-class talk radio — news and sports coverage done literally 50/50.

In addition, they’ve launched several digital-only stations (we have digital broadcast radio here), including the fabulous 6 Music (alternative/indie rock), 1Xtra (“playing more new black music”), BBC 7 (all radio theatre) and even an all-“Asian” station catering to the Indian/Pakistani community.

So, I have to give their radio a big thumbs up! I miss CBC Radio 1 sometimes, but there really is more variety here.

— Luke | Apr. 2, 2006 — 7 PM

In many ways, BBC is what I wish the CBC could be, if it had proper funding. They do the best with what they have but I worry about private-sector pressure on the Conservative government to start gutting it. A shame, really, because Radio 3 is wonderful.

I figure Sirius went with Radio 1 because it’s pop music oriented and has a large audience. I’m hoping they’ll bring the other stations on board soon enough. I’m a bit of a radio nut so I’m always eager to hear something new.

Truth be told, I kind of like Radio 1. While the music isn’t my cup of tea, I find the announcers are just funnier than what we get on commercial radio in Canada. And no commercials is a big plus, too.

John | Apr. 3, 2006 — 5 PM

The other major difference between the BBC’s international presence and its UK incarnation is that the former isn’t the BBC. The programming one gets on TV abroad — either as BBC World News (or whatever it’s called) or on the CBC after hours — isn’t actually produced by the Beep. They sold it off a couple of years ago, and the new, independent franchise has some privileged access to BBC materials, but is run as its own entity. At least that’s what gather from a friend on the inside (Paxman’s fact-checker!)

Just back from the Blue Jays season-opener: sold out!


— Holger | Apr. 5, 2006 — 5 AM

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