Friday, July 13, 2012

BBC World Service - Fewer Smiles Across the Miles

Just read a really awful article in the Guardian about BBC World Service. Facts are taken off the recent documentaries, but Rupert Sawyer is just playing critic rather than listening to the output. Seems to write so he can get Twitter followers. Why does the Guardian commission this sort of rubbish? Charlie Brooker it is not.

So what has really changed at BBC World Service? It was interesting listening back to the old promo material of BBC World Service in the 1990's in the past few weeks and comparing it with the sound now. It's a lot tighter, but because continuity has been eliminated, it's a lot less personal. There were remarks about the weather in London which added a shared experience - a little dash of colour. The range of programmes has been drastically reduced in English and that, for me, means less time spent listening.

BBC WS radio is certainly the station for other news journalists. I think programmes like Newshour and From Our Own Correspondent have improved. But I miss the smiles I get on other networks - like the News Quiz on BBC Radio 4. That programme is radio's equivalent of the Daily Show. It's very powerful satire. Helps put the current affairs programmes into perspective.

I think it's time to rethink the Feedback shows on BBC WS - whether it is World Have Your Say or Over to You.  They are becoming empires within their own networks, as though these programmes are the only place where listeners "can have their say". This doesn't happen on BBC domestic radio, so why in external broadcasting?

I believe the approach that , for instance BBC Radio 4 PM takes, to integrate the blog and social media comments into the regular programmes is equally important. Because then listeners feel more involved in all the programmes, not just the feedback shows. It needs a light touch - just a hint of colour. I don't hear many smiles on the World Service any more. And comedy on the network didn't make it into this century.

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