BBC World Service Radio "under siege" - EMAIL ADDRESS & UPDATE

BBC World Service Radio "under siege" - EMAIL ADDRESS & UPDATE

Post by Rachel Mawhoo » Thu, 04 Jul 1996 04:00:00


Please e-mail as soon as possible to

if you would like to add the weight of your opinion to those calling for
an independent review of the reorganisation proposed for the BBC (please
see below) and a moratorium on those proposals being put into effect
pending the outcome of the review.  Your e-mail will be forwarded to the

Please address your e-mail to any of:

1  The Rt Hon The Lord Thomson of Monifieth KT PC DL
Dear Lord Thomson ...

2  The Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP
Chairman, National Heritage Select Committee
Dear Mr Kaufman ...

3  The Secretary of State for National Heritage
Dear Secretary of State ...

Many thanks for your help and support,

Rachel Mawhood
Radio 4 Watch UK
(a listeners' lobby group with representatives in several European

PS  Please bear with me, if you see this posted up in other newsgroups,
for the sake of the BBC World Service.

######################## LATEST ################################

###Wednesday 3 July 96###
"Scores of fl***tributes, bearing the simple heartrending message, 'BBC
World Service RIP', have become an almost permanent fixture on the
railings outside Bush House HQ in the Strand [London WC1].

'The security guards are told to pull them down from time to time, but
they keep reappearing', one Bush House stalwart says proudly."  Times
(London), 3 July 96.

###Tuesday 2 July 96###
Parliament lobbied by 300 BBC World Service employees; the meeting was
addressed by, among others, Baroness James of Holland Park, a former BBC
governor.  Also present were John Tusa (former head of the World
Service), Terry Waite and John McCarthy (to whom the BBC World Service
meant so much during the years they were detained as hostages by the
Hizbollah in Lebanon), Mark Tully (the BBC's former Delhi correspondent),
Ben Okri (the Booker Prize-winning novelist), and Charles Kennedy
(Liberal Democrat MP).

Next day, the Times of London reported: Lady James said, "I don't know
whether to be more appalled by the decision itself than by the way in
which it has been arrived at.  Arrogance, extraordinary arrogance.  I
would like to say both to John Birt and to the new Chairman [Sir
Christopher Bland] - they do not own the BBC.  The World Service is not a
private company.  It belongs to this country and ... the people of the
world.  It would be absolutely scandalous if two men are allowed to
destroy it."  Times (London) 3 July 96.

Terry Waite said that, "Given that the BBC charter calls for public
consultation before any major changes are made ... how do the governors
explain the secrecy surrounding the changes announced by the Director
General and the lack of consultation within the Corporation let alone
with any member of the public?"  Times (London) 3 July 96.

"Good management and good programmes did not arrive at the BBC with John
Birt.  He gives the impression that before him there was only chaos and
dark night.  Not so.  The reason people all over the world know the BBC
is that it does a good job.  No one disputes that there are ways of
making it do better.  No one would want a BBC that didn't plan for the
future.  It remains, however, our BBC and he has a duty, nay a mession,
to explain his reasons for changing it now."  Gillian Reynolds, radio
correspondent, Daily Telegraph (London), 2 July 96.

###Monday 1 July 96###
Felix Dennis, chairman of Dennis Publishing Ltd, writes, "I have
travelled the world on business for 25 years, selling Britain.  And I
have felt the benefit of the world Service's reputation every time I
closed a sale.  In a lot of countries, the only time Britain is ever
mentioned or thought of is when people are listening to or watching the
BBC ...  Thanks to the BBC, this [Britain] is not seen as just a broke
little island on the edge of northern Europe.  Nor are we seen as an
arrogant ex-colonial power to be resented.  We are a Mother Country: a
mature, fair-play nation people can trust ... the BBC is our best
ambassador ...

Birt's planned reforms will save little ...  What is more, they will
cause unimaginable damage.  Merging the experts at Bush House with the
rest of the BBC is going to destroy a thing of excellence.  If you merge
the World Service and British BBC news departments, you are going to
break up teams of journalists who know as much about their regions or
countries as any diplomat or academic ...

the World Service does not belong to John Birt.  It is paid for by the
Government, out of the Foreign Office budget.  some of its audience - who
live in countries where a free press is just a dream - rely on it, need
it to survive.  The World Service is not John Birt's private, domestic
fiefdom.  It is there to serve: to serve its audience, and to serve
Britain."  Daily Telegraph (London) 1 July 96.

########################## ORIGINAL MESSAGE OF 21 JUNE 96 ##############

Whether or not you agree with John Tusa (managing director of the BBC
World Service 1986-1992) that the recently-announced reorganisation of
the BBC included "the biggest act of bureaucratic vandalism ever
committed against the World Service", something rather strange did happen
on Friday 7 June 1996.

At a news conference called at ludicrously short notice (in the words of
one media correspondent on the London Times), on Friday 7 June 1996, the
BBC Director-General announced the most radical reorganisation yet of the
entire BBC.  So confident was the Director-General of the "rightness" of
his plans that he had seen no need to consult any of the BBC Governors
(whose role is not only to represent the national interest at the BBC but
actually to entrench it); he had seen no need to talk to his senior
staff, no need to let them review his proposals and make comments based
on their own considerable experience and skills in national broadcasting.
 (In an interview with the New Statesman, the Director-General defended
his decision not to consult his own top management, by saying, "it was
not appropriate to discuss these things in detail with senior colleagues
... It would have caused great consternation.")

The only people "in" on the plan were: the Director-General and the
(external) management consultants (management consultants are paid to
change things: have you heard of any who got paid for saying, "there's no
need to change anything you're doing").  Among other things, there is now
to be no separate radio directorate at the BBC; and the BBC World Service
will not be allowed to make its own English-language programmes (these
will have to be "out-sourced" to production teams in London W1 who have
no experience of and little insight into the lives, histories and mores
of audiences in the countries to which these programmes will be
broadcast, nor much idea of how easy it is to get it wrong).

In John Tusa's words (London Guardian, 10 June 96), "This conclusive
down-grading of the BBC World Service represents the climax of a three
year programme of marginalisation and reduction ... But the eyes of World
Service managers, like the guns of Singapore, were trained in the wrong
direction - the real enemies were not beyond the BBC; they were within
the gates."

However you rate the BBC (against, say, CNN), it is nevertheless a world
broadcaster with tremendous influence for good or evil; the BBC should
never, therefore, be organised by one person without benefit of
consensus, as a personal fiefdom.

If you would like to add your voice to those calling for a judicial
review of the proposed new structures announced on 7 June - and for a
moratorium on those new arrangements pending the outcome of the review -
with the option to reverse or cancel the new arrangements, if the review
concludes that these are not in the best interests of the BBC or its
audiences, please write as soon as possible to:

The Rt Hon The Lord Thomson of Monifieth KT PC DL
Leeds Castle Foundation
ME17 1PL                Dear Lord Thomson ...

The Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP
Chairman, National Heritage Select Committee on the Future of the BBC
House of Commons
SW1A 0AA        Dear Mr Kaufman

The Secretary of State for National Heritage
Department of National Heritage
2-4***spur Street
UK              Dear Secretary of State

Many thanks

Yours on watch!
Rachel Mawhood
Radio 4 Watch UK
(listeners' lobby group run by volunteers in several European countries)