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Is The BBC The United Nations Of Broadcasting?
January 14, 2004 9:52 PM   Subscribe

Trusting The Redcoats: How many independent-minded Americans actually rely on the BBC (specially the World Service) for accurate coverage of American politics? Not to mention The Guardian. Is it a strictly an elitist, liberal/left-wing phenomenon? What does it mean? What does it say about better-informed liberal newspapers and media of the U.S.? If so, why aren't like-minded Europeans just as cosmopolitan and, say, pay the same attention to news sources like The New York Times, NPR and others, rather than stolidly sticking to their own national staples?
posted by MiguelCardoso (71 comments total)

 
My pro-Bush, pro-America-with-no-reservations, pro-Israel father won't even buy French wine, but he never misses the BBC. It just brings a different perspective that he doesn't get to see on American news, especially the local news that's often his only alternative without cable.
posted by transona5 at 10:08 PM on January 14, 2004


I am American, but I rely on the bbc for more accurate coverage of events than our national news sources. I have noticed a huge difference between them and cnn recently. Every day I read the World News, bbc, nytimes, and cnn.com. Around the time of the earthquake in Iran it became glaringly obvious that the bbc was more on the ball. The bbc listed the casualties as over 30,000 at least 6 hours before cnn upped their count from 5,000. Furthermore, when those flights were cancelled from France to LA, the bbc had 6 listed while cnn only had 3. This discrepancy lasted for 12 hours before cnn.com changed their report. These 2 events have shown me that regardless of political affiliation, the bbc is far superior to most American news sources. I base this on the belief that many other news sources here in the US use cnn news feeds.
posted by Raichle at 10:10 PM on January 14, 2004


Is it a strictly an elitist, liberal/left-wing phenomenon?

For the most part yes. When I heard someone say that they read The Guardian, and/or listen/watch the BBC, a red flag goes up to tread lightly in political discussion.

This is just my personal experience, and nothing beyond that.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:19 PM on January 14, 2004


When reading BBC News online, I'm always surprised at the high number of comments in the "have your say" sections that originate in the USA. For example: Do white socks show bad taste?
posted by MiG at 10:29 PM on January 14, 2004


I listen/watch the BBC and read the Guardian, but only for a real presentation of world news that is damnably unfindable in the US for the most part. And for the latest cricket scores (or tables or rounds or whatever you knobbers call them).
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:34 PM on January 14, 2004


I'm a brit, and I've been living in the us for almost 3 years, and I ended up in a hotel in Osaka listening to BBC World on satellite radio whilst watching Saddams' statue being pulled down on NHK. I was almost embarrassed because my American girlfriend was beside me as I heard the commentator go on and on comparing the fall of Baghdad to Basra and comparing the troops behaviour to that of british troops. It was really odd hearing a strong bias from my beeb.

One random thought is that this may be related to the need of the some Americans to know what the rest of the world thinks of them. And this leads to the mildly snarky thought that the British media is never going to be harsh on the average American. But I guess when reading a foreign paper you can always think its talking about your countrymen not you.

hmm... that came out way more harsh than I intended.

I have a sneaking suspicion I've thrown a few of the locals when I've come out with some right wing ideas. That's always fun.

I get most of my info from yahoo's aggregation. I've got the AP/yahoo's top/us local/tech stories. I also listen to BBC radio 1 so I get BBC news lite from there.
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 10:35 PM on January 14, 2004


Perhaps the other end of the political spectrum is better represented by the typical U.S. reader of The Economist?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:36 PM on January 14, 2004


BBC, and well, just about every other non-American news service seems to have better international news than the U.S.

U.S. news tends to report on lots of national stories rather than things like earthquakes in third world countries.
posted by destro at 10:38 PM on January 14, 2004


Plenty of right-wingers read The (British) Economist -- as do lefties like me. When one realizes that its closest analogs in the States are Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report, the choice is clear.

On preview:

What does he know? He's just a robot ;>
posted by Ptrin at 10:41 PM on January 14, 2004


I listen to the BBC world service on the way home from work sometimes, probably my biggest problem is that far too often they seem to cover too much US news.
posted by drezdn at 10:55 PM on January 14, 2004


BBC World is the only English news I watch because it's the only English (TV) news I get. I was disappointed to see that they've recently added one of those idiotic attention-deficit-disorder text-crawls at the bottom of the screen, but they haven't idiotized it as much as, say, CNN, at least. Yet.

And yes, the Economist has been a favorite news publication of this particualr corporate-hater since the mid-80's.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:18 PM on January 14, 2004


I don't think the Economist finds its analogues in Time or other American newsweeklies. It has next to no touchy-feely stories (unless you count the occasional explanations of microeconomics), and is absolutely relentless in its international character. Its best analogue is probably getting the Sunday New York Times.

And it's just so bitchy that ya gotta love it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:43 PM on January 14, 2004


Goes to show what you know. He's not a robot without emotions, his heart is human. </derail>
posted by fvw at 11:52 PM on January 14, 2004


Todays Frontpages for Around the World
Is one of the better places to find out at a glance.
posted by Elim at 12:32 AM on January 15, 2004


I absolutely love the Economist. I am fairly Left in general, and I love reading well reasoned, rational, well written articles presenting opinions I disagree with. The Economist delivers that again and again. It forces me to really consider my own views and often makes me uncomfortable about knee jerk opinions I've formed about current events. Conservative press in America NEVER delivers this experience.

I listen to the BBC world report often but often notice that the reporting is irritatingly slanted. I even agree with most of what they are saying, but often their questions in interviews and commentary is rather transparently manipulative and shallow, to the point of being snide.
posted by Voivod at 1:07 AM on January 15, 2004


I don't think the BBC is left wing, it just appears that from an American perspective. Both the American and British media reflect the prevailing political mood in their respective countries. For instance, from what I've read of Howard Dean, in Europe he would be a strong centre-left candidate. In America, he's being mocked as part of the "looney left".
posted by salmacis at 1:12 AM on January 15, 2004


Considering how looney right this country is, that phrase is so ironic.
posted by y2karl at 1:27 AM on January 15, 2004


I don't think the BBC is left wing, it just appears that from an American perspective.

Agreed. When I first came over here, I was still using the NY Times as my primary news source. After being here a little while, I realized how right-of-center even our so-called "left" newspapers are. (Thinking primarily of the NYT and Washington Post.) I switched to the BBC, Independent and Guardian for my world news, along with the occasional foray into French-language papers (the only other language I know at all decently). I suppose that makes me an irredeemable lefty, by current US standards. So be it.

I find the BBC to be right down the center, with perhaps a very slight "status quo" bias. The Guardian, of course, is a left-leaning paper and makes no apologies about that. The Independent seems to have less of an agenda.
posted by Tholian at 2:07 AM on January 15, 2004


I agree with your point on the BBC, I feel that its coverage of different areas represents a fairly broad political spectrum. For example its coverage of business and economics is fairly standard centre/right stuff while its main stories often tend to have a slightly leftist bent. However I think that is more down to a tradition in much UK media of harassing the current government.

I disagree massively on the Guardian fron though, I find it awful to read. Its main news coverage is OK but any lesser stories or features get a massively left wing slant. Also I read a article a few weeks ago in G2 (the Guardian supplement) about iPods that was so shockingly innacurate that I nearly cried. It claimed that the "tech savvy" people of this world had been "importing iPods from the US in early 2003". They were on sale in the UK for heaven's sake. Also one of the last lines was, "I just feel sorry for all the PC shops that can't take advantage of the boom". Good for you, because no one else does because there is fricking windows version for sale. It was some of the slackest journalism I've seen in a while, although thats pretty much what supplements are for isn't it?
posted by greatneb at 2:33 AM on January 15, 2004


I thought it was interesting that the article should begin 'Does the BBC offer a more aggressive and complete approach to the news, or a tilt to the left— or both?'.

It hardly suggests a lack of bias on the part of the writer.
The BBC used to be perceived in the UK as being more right wing than left. It may well have shifted away from this, but that just means that it favours the right less than it did, not necessarily that it favours the left over the right. What has been seen is a campaign by the right in the UK accusing the BBC of having left wing bias - this does not make it so, in fact it puts me in mind of the discussion we had concerning Lakoff yesterday. Simply repeat an idea ad nauseam till its adopted as the truth.

I think its also wise to bear in mind that the political debate in the UK may be a little further left than that in the US, so the balance point between the two may look a little further left from a US perspective.
posted by biffa at 2:34 AM on January 15, 2004


I disagree massively on the Guardian fron though, I find it awful to read. Its main news coverage is OK but any lesser stories or features get a massively left wing slant.

The Guardian and the BBC are entirely different. The BBC is supposed to be 'unbiased and independent'.
The Guardian on the other hand is supposed to have a left wing slant - its a left leaning paper, the only one the UK qualities that is. It was founded to promote the liberal interest and continues to do so. Have a look at its history.
Go and read the Telegraph or the Times and see how balanced they are.
posted by biffa at 3:10 AM on January 15, 2004


It works both ways. As a Brit I frequently visit US news sources such as CNN. It has nothing to do with quality, it is just about balance, an attempt to hear perspectives and viewpoints that I wouldn't necessarily hear sticking to British news outlets. It's the same reason why I visit weblogs with opinions out of synch with my own beliefs such as LGF, A Small Victory, Andrew Sullivan.

Elim - Todays Frontpages for Around the World
Excellent link, I've been looking for something like that, thanks.
posted by chill at 3:21 AM on January 15, 2004


For instance, from what I've read of Howard Dean, in Europe he would be a strong centre-left candidate.

Dean is pro-gun and against universal health coverage (on pragmatic grounds, admittedly): in terms of British politics he's actually closest to the younger, libertarian wing of the Tory party. (Letwin, Fox etc.) Strange but true.

As for the BBC: I'm guessing that one reason Americans think it's a bastion of commies is that they simply aren't exposed to the more reactionary bits. Jimmy Young may have retired, but there are still bits that give voice to the 'hang em, flog em and deport em' camp. But that's more noticeable to domestic audiences and listeners than to people watching BBC World or looking at the website. At least, that's how it felt to be watching Sky News during Operation Bomb Iraq when they took the feed from Fox News at its most jingoistic.

The BBC is best when it's at its least domestic and condescending: its radio and web output is better than its TV news (BBC World excepted) and the World Service is best of all. There's a reason why people who work at Bush House feel superior: they are superior.

But, to answer the question, I've tried listening to NPR online, and it's awful. I can't quite explain why. Perhaps it's because it's so bloody tame and cotton-woolly and unconfrontational. And the non-advert advert thing ('made possible by GlobalMegaCorp, the society for niceness... and by you') grates after about 20 seconds. CNN's international channel isn't that bad, though. It seems to be where old presenters of Channel 4 News and Blue Peter end up.
posted by riviera at 4:08 AM on January 15, 2004


I'm in the UK. I listened to the World Service almost exclusively during the initial stages of the Iraq invasion. It was unmitigatedly unbiased in its coverage, unlike BBC TV news, which (arguably) sanctioned the war machine by censoring the horrific human cost of the invasion. (That is certainly my opinion.)

The World Service, on the other hand, has to be unbiased: its audience is global and it'd be caught out in a heartbeat if it showed the slightest weighting to any one of the multiple views on the invasion. It's credibility would be in tatters and it would sink into mistrust, dislike and irrelevance. Very different to a news outlet that considers its audience national.

Both the BBC and the Guardian, are non-profit organisations. One has a charter to be unbiased, both aren't (nearly anywhere so) swayed by the capitalist agenda, which is fine for selling beans, but not so wonderful for informing.

As Greg Palast (who works for BBC Newsnight and the Guardian/Observer) says, the reason for the difference is that capitalist corporations don't want to take risks. They don't want to rock the boat, because their businesses, their profits, rely on the status quo and keeping favour with it (witness Rupert Murdoch's grand media-business plan.)

Investigative independent journalism requires huge resources, which cut into profits. The dirt such investigations throw up, may not be (for the 'news businesses') politically wise. Even the BBC tries not to rock the boat during Charter renewal, but this is once every several years.

American news, it seems to me, is much more about 'business' than 'news'; in the same way that commercial tv is essentially about using programmes to attract eyeballs to the advertisemnets, where public service tv is primarily about serving the viewing public.

Capitalism just isn't right for some things.

Why don't I read the NYT and American news sources regularly? I don't feel I need to, in order to get the information I consider I require: our media isn't nearly so toadying as American media.

So think I.
posted by Blue Stone at 4:15 AM on January 15, 2004


The left/right distinction is interesting. As pointed out above, a left-wing firebrand in the US matches up with the centre-right at best, but closer to the more libertarian Tories, in the UK - i.e. well to the right on our spectrum.

This carries over to the media, obviously - much US news coverage that I read on the web is incredibly, shockingly biased to the right, and can well understand the US left-wing turning to the Guardian for solace - just as I read it to feel at home and have my take on the news confirmed. It's the paper that educated me politically, and the one that comes closest to my views, not a source for straight information.

The BBC is a different question - the World Service is, as far as I can tell, very balanced, while domestic BBC output tends toward the right, or at least the establishment/status quo view (with the exception of Radio 4, perhaps, which has a slight left-wing lean at times). Whatever, the BBC's news coverage is undeniably fairer and more balanced than any US news outlet I've ever come across, so it's hardly a surprise that Americans on the left or right would seek it out, in much the same way that I'll turn to the NYT (right wing, yes, but with decent reporting) for a view from the US on current events.

Also, it's fascinating for a UK reader to see the BBC identified as a left-wing news source for Americans, or see MetaFilter posters who identify as left-wing writing like full-blown right-wingers from this side of the pond, if not a little funny - as I say, the difference between our left/right distinctions and yours are so vast that their meaning dissolves across the Atlantic.
posted by jack_mo at 5:28 AM on January 15, 2004


Americans who listen to the BBC in seek of "pure" news unadulterated by corporate U.S. bias need to be careful. The BBC has its own agendas, just as most U.S. media do. Indeed, there are entire blogs devoted to cataloging and criticizing BBC bias. The BBC has also come under unprecedented criticism on the home front, including the Andrew Giligan "sexed up" scandal.
posted by profwhat at 5:30 AM on January 15, 2004


A caveat, I work for The Guardian Media Group (but not in a journalistic or marketing capacity).

As a few people have pointed out, there are significant differences between the remit of the BBC and that of the GMG.

In terms of print and web journalism, what distinguishes The Guardian from many other publications is that it is owned by a trust, The Scott Trust, and not a single proprieter. In 1992, the trust formally recorded their central objective as follows:
"To secure the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner. "
Addressing one of Miguel's questions, I am European. Through Metafilter, I regularly read pieces from the New York Times. I also read the International Herald Tribune, and The Economist.

Through the publication I work on, I also regularly read comment, analysis and features from The Washington Post, Le Monde and The Mail & Guardian in South Africa.

They improve my view of world politics immeasurably. I will try to look at an international issue through non-UK or international media as well as the BBC and The Guardian. European policy is presented very differently in Le Monde, Southern African issues are presented in a less patronising manner in the Mail & Guardian and the Daily News is the only place where you get a real sense of what is happening in Zimbabwe. I get football scores in the IHT, as well as US current affairs.

However, for accurate journalism relating to UK politics, I find that the BBC is remarkably level in its analysis and that the Guardian voices the same concerns that I have. Why would I read a paragraph about UK politics in the New York Times?

Having said all that, the article linked to is fascinating and well written. Thanks for finding the link.

On preview:

profwhat: Firstly, did you read the link? Secondly, what is the BBC's hidden agenda?
posted by davehat at 5:42 AM on January 15, 2004


profwhat - Those that seek information about BBC bias should be careful not to garner all their evidence from web sites that set out to prove that the BBC is biased. Just saying.
posted by chill at 6:25 AM on January 15, 2004


I would like to thank each and every Briton paying the BBC license fee - I want you to know that you make my world a better place.
I spend a lot of time browsing the news on my daily internet paper route - I even read aljazeera.net sometimes. Once I have finished browsing through the BBC and Metafilter however, I rarely feel the need to unsettle myself by reading the mainstream American media.
posted by FidelDonson at 6:28 AM on January 15, 2004


profwhat, the BBC a couple of days ago wrote a piece on their news site about CD sales stating that piracy was the cause of low sales in music (where this occurred).

I wrote to them pointing out that there were many more factors involved (fewer releases, price-fixing etc.) I was sent an e-mail agreeing that the output had not reflected the whole picture of the causes of dropping music sales, and find today that their article was completely re-written (the first link in my FPP today) and added to by a slew of other articles addressing the matter in an (I think you'll agree) fair and balanced manner.

Those anti-BBC blogs are interesting. I wonder if they consider their coverage of the Beeb fair and balanced?

The BBC most certainly isn't above criticism, and does show (sometimes inexcusable) bias from time to time* but there is a far greater degree of probity in the BBC, than in a great many media corporations out there. We're all, all the better for it.

*The incidents where BBC News edited footage of the Miner's Strike to make it appear that Police were responding with violence to protesting Miners' violence, when it was infact the Police who had initiated the violence; and various Poll Tax Riots' incidents of police provocation edited to similar effect, are all shameful and abhorrent incidents that taught me an important lesson about trusting the BBC, and the media in general.
posted by Blue Stone at 6:35 AM on January 15, 2004


I've turned to BBC and other non-USian sources for my news to get a better perspective on international issues, but also to escape a lot of the over-hyped sensational domestic issues. Laci Peterson, The Killer Flu, Michael Jackson, The Storm of the Century of the Week, etc fill the pages / minutes of American media. Even when I visit CNN's site I use the international version.

Thankfully, the net allows us to actually have a choice in our news sources that were previously hard to get. I just wish my cable system carried BBC World 24/7.
posted by birdherder at 6:52 AM on January 15, 2004


the AJR piece mentions, I think, all too briefly the mighty Jeremy Paxman -- one can only imagine Paxman being allowed to prod, say, mr Cheney like he usually does with British politicians.
but of course one cannot really imagine Bush submitting to something even remotely similar to the British Question Time -- it'd make it so hard to use his beloved TelePrompTer

Americans, very simply, especially in a time of crisis, seem to like their news coming with a heavy sprinkling of respect for the government, whether it's wildly cheering the troops (hence the flags proudly flying on every screen, those very respectful "embeds") or listening politely to the same tired pablum coming from official's mouths, and getting also mocked for their weakness (remember Ari Fleischer's good manners, anybody?)
Allah forbid an American journalist commit the cardinal sin of being "shrill" (unless of course one is Russert-like gouging Edwards' and Dean's eyes out while bovinely admit Cheney simply "misspoke")

just remember, children, the damn American liberal media never reported Trent Lott's little segregationist outburst -- it simply wasn't in the wires. those damn liberal Pinko reporters simply shook their heads and thought, "same ole Trent". too bad Josh Marshall rained on their little parade, I guess

anyway our American MeFi friends simply "need to watch what they say, watch what they do" and they'll be OK

Is it a strictly an elitist, liberal/left-wing phenomenon?
For the most part yes. When I heard someone say that they read The Guardian, and/or listen/watch the BBC, a red flag goes up to tread lightly in political discussion.

Not really, no -- when non-Americans hear that someone is American, a black flag goes up to tread lightly in political discussion. you know, one does not want to ruin their impression that history began on 9-11, or that Roger Ailes' GopNews "fair and balanced" wrapped-in-the-flag news are n't a terrible journalistic joke
but of course when 11 megacorporations own 90 % of the American media (and the appalling law that made it possible was signed by a nominally-Democratic President, one cannot be too picky)
posted by matteo at 7:02 AM on January 15, 2004


The BBC fair-minded? ha ha...http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fopinion%2F2004%2F01%2F13%2Fdo1302.xml&sSheet=%2Fportal%2F2004%2F01%2F13%2Fixportal.html
posted by Postroad at 7:03 AM on January 15, 2004


elitist?

Is that now a synonym for Liberal or Democrat?

It seems pretty obnoxious to include an automatic insult in
your description of people who happen to listen a non-US
news source.

Does this mean that future posts can include the stereotypical
insults for all the corrupt redneck fascist Republicans who don't
listen to the BBC because it never has any country music and
doesn't feature nearly enough rusty pick-ups with big flags on em'.
posted by milovoo at 8:02 AM on January 15, 2004


I listen to the BBC world service on the way home from work sometimes, probably my biggest problem is that far too often they seem to cover too much US news.

That's because you're probably listening to what is retransmitted by Public Radio International in the US, which is the World Service Americas feed. As you can see on the PublicRadioFan listing for the letter B, there are many different feeds for the BBC, including several for the World Service. I usually prefer the World Service European feed, which also has a heavy concentration of African news, which for some reason I always seem to enjoy more, perhaps because it's often more dramatic, rich with possibility, and because it seems like Anglophone Africans more often say directly what is on their minds. Also, Radio 4 is very professional, though UK-centric (obviously). There is nothing quite so quirky but interesting as the Shipping Forecast.

I temper my BBC listening--which I do a lot of--with smaller doses of Radio Canada International (usually "As It Happens"), Radio National of Australia, Radio France International, and NPR. This listening habit really does give me news I never see in US newspapers, or when I do, sometimes 48 or 72 hours later.

I should point out a lot of the BBC coverage of the Republic of Georgia's recent elections was very engrossing, not the least because they scored interviews with many key players. No matter what the bias you perceive, that kind of access is one of the reasons the BBC is very difficult to best.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:09 AM on January 15, 2004


Postroad: op-ed from the Daily Telegraph about the BBC? Now THAT's what I call unbiased reporting!
posted by davehat at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2004


Forget the BBC, young Americans are just as likely to get their news off of the Daily Show or SNL as they are the Internet or a television news network.
posted by dgaicun at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2004


How many independent-minded Americans actually rely on the BBC (...) for accurate coverage of American politics?

Trick question. If you're independent-minded, you won't rely on the BBC at all. Don't get me started on The Guardian. Go for The Times and, re magazines, The Economist.
posted by 111 at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2004


Postroad: op-ed from the Daily Telegraph about the BBC? Now THAT's what I call unbiased reporting!

Whilst the Telegraph clearly isn't unbiased (at all) regarding the BBC, the story itself is a difficult one to dismiss solely on those grounds. Have they made a distinction in their treatment of Paulin and Kilroy-Silk, and what does this imply for the Corporation?

If you're independent-minded, you won't rely on the BBC at all. Don't get me started on The Guardian. Go for The Times and, re magazines, The Economist.

Is that a joke? The Times is another arm of News International (proud owners of Fox) and is driven purely by the whims of Rupert Murdoch and co. It is far from being the organ it once was.
While the Economist is pretty good at cutting through the crap, it is driven purely by the economics of situations, which whilst might be expected but doesn't necessarily mean that social implications of stories are always properly weighted.
posted by biffa at 8:31 AM on January 15, 2004


The Times is the world's best newspaper.
BTW, as far as "social implications" go, the magazine is called The Economist, not the Keynesian Economist. Social concerns have different ways of expressing themselves.
posted by 111 at 8:43 AM on January 15, 2004


elitist?

Is that now a synonym for Liberal or Democrat?


of course it is. because, as Thomas Frank explained so beautifully in One Market Under God , elites aren't made of multinational corporate cartels. it's that damn croissant-eating liberals who are out of touch with "Real (ie red state) America" and are winning the Culture War.

If you're independent-minded, you won't rely on the BBC at all. Don't get me started on The Guardian.
Is that a joke?


yes and no. it's a joke because it's funny and makes you laugh, but 111 is serious. I'm surprised he didn't use the words "Pinko" or "Red"

re The Economist -- they've been wrong so often about so many things (their US coverage is particularly disappointing) that it's hard to give them the credit they once deserved.
And The Times, well, it's a Murdochian (ie GopNews) paper. You decide.

The BBC fair-minded? ha ha...


yes, I hear that it's not very popular in the settlements and in the illegal outposts
Thank Allah for the fair and balanced Hollinger's Jerusalem Post I guess, then
posted by matteo at 8:48 AM on January 15, 2004


matteo is a pinko red Mother Jones-Village Voice reading commie. Happy now?
posted by 111 at 8:52 AM on January 15, 2004


So who're the British equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Dr. Laura again?

You know, we should thank God over here every night that it wasn't the last who was the drug addict and the first who had the nude pictures posted on the internet.
posted by y2karl at 8:58 AM on January 15, 2004


The Times is the world's best newspaper.

That may even have been true once, or at least they would have been in with a shot, now the writing is on a par with the Mail and the editorial independence that Murdoch committed to when he bought it seems always to find expression through an editor who happens to agree with the stance of Murdoch's other UK newspapers on every single substantive issue.

BTW, as far as "social implications" go, the magazine is called The Economist, not the Keynesian Economist. Social concerns have different ways of expressing themselves.

Well in terms of reporting I'm quite keen for them to be expressed in the story upon which they have a direct effect. Social implications have a direct effect on the economics - overlooking them in the cause of economic purity is ludicrous. The fact that Keynesian economics is an accepted branch of economics (not to mention Pigou) should give some indication of why full consideration is essential to the whole picture.
posted by biffa at 9:01 AM on January 15, 2004


It's sounds daft, but we don't really have them. Talk radio isn't as big in the UK, and we don't have the same divide in our politics. In the USA, the liberals and the conservatives simply cannot stand each other. Political debate between the two sides is impossible.

I'm not saying that the typical Daily Mail reader has much in common with the typical Guardian reader, but there isn't the same level of hatred and incomprehension.
posted by salmacis at 9:09 AM on January 15, 2004


While the Economist is pretty good at cutting through the crap, it is driven purely by the economics of situations, which whilst might be expected but doesn't necessarily mean that social implications of stories are always properly weighted.

I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that The Economist's recent special report on suicide terrorism, "Maryrdom and murder," was probably the single best article I have ever read on the subject. Their scorecard wasn't bad, either.
posted by Ptrin at 9:15 AM on January 15, 2004


Well, salmacis, you do have Richard Littlejohn, Gary Bushell and, at a pinch, Jeremy Clarkson.... ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:16 AM on January 15, 2004


So who're the British equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Dr. Laura again?

Don't think we really have direct comparisons, TV doesn't really allow one-sided polemics of that nature generally. Closest you could get would perhaps be Richard Littlejohn (newspaper columnist who got own small TV show), maybe Jeremy Clarkson, pro-car/anti-environmentalist but who's not very good at putting up arguments.
Oddly enough, we do seem more likely to have celebrity interviewers, known for laying into politicians. EG John Humphries; Paxman has already been mentioned (you can watch what is probably his most famous interview moment from here - basically asking the home secretary the same question 14 times.
This is quite a good bit also (and hardly pro-labour);
JEREMY PAXMAN: And you believe American intelligence?

TONY BLAIR: Well I do actually believe this intelligence -

JEREMY PAXMAN: Because there are a lot of dead people in an aspirin factory in Sudan who don't.

On preview: beaten to it!
posted by biffa at 9:17 AM on January 15, 2004


I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that The Economist's recent special report on suicide terrorism, "Maryrdom and murder," was probably the single best article I have ever read on the subject. Their scorecard wasn't bad, either.

I agree the quality of writing is very good, I just don't think that they're an example of neutrality or balance - though I don't necessarily have a problem with that, I don't think they should be held up to be so.
posted by biffa at 9:21 AM on January 15, 2004


Speaking of Richard Littlejohn...
posted by chill at 10:12 AM on January 15, 2004


Cheers chill, I enjoyed that.
posted by biffa at 10:21 AM on January 15, 2004


The Times is the world's best newspaper.

No, it's not. Really. All of its journalistic talent left a while ago. Now it's unreadable: and not in an ideological sense, because I can read the Torygraph quite happily, with the exception of Barbara Amiel and Mark Steyn, both of whom will probably be looking for new employers once Conrad Black gets his marching orders.

No: The Times is unreadable because it doesn't know whether it wants to be a limp broadsheet or a half-hearted imitation of the Daily Mail. It's neither fish nor flesh. And it's an irrelevance in the British newspaper market these days.

[biffa beat me to it, I see. And I forgot about the way that the Times is now used to plug Murdoch's broadcasting empire, as well. Special features on Sky programmes; uncritical 'in-depth profiles' of 20th C. Fox films etc.]
posted by riviera at 11:00 AM on January 15, 2004


all the corrupt redneck fascist Republicans who don't listen to the BBC because it never has any country music and doesn't feature nearly enough rusty pick-ups with big flags on em'.

Like I said, Americans don't get a sense of the wide spectrum of the BBC's broadcast output. In fact, Radio 2 is in the middle of a country music programme right now: why not listen in?

You're right about the pick-ups, though.
posted by riviera at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2004


I used to rush home from work so I could see Dhaljit Dhaliwan on the ITV news on the local PBS affiliate. wwRRRowrrrr...
posted by RakDaddy at 11:48 AM on January 15, 2004


And another thing: the Beeb's broadcasters, at least the ones that PBS and NPR pick up, just sound a lot pleasant. It's not the just the British accent; their tones are more relaxed. Fox, CNN and MSNBC are so bloody loud that it's tough to concentrate on the content.
posted by RakDaddy at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2004


"...rely on the BBC (specially the World Service) for accurate coverage..."

It's really about balancing opinions, specificially world views. I think everyone should read the BBC site at the least (being both comprehensive and in English, and right f'n there on the internet) every now and then to get a "second opinion" on how American policies are viewed abroad, and I don't mean just foreign policy.

But trusting all your news to the BBC is just as dangerous as trusting it all to CNN... in a post-William Randolph Hearst era this should be self-evident, but alas. The art to understanding the news is to gain an impression from a number of different viewpoints, which is sadly something G.W. Bush has made it clear he does not like spending time on...

Why won't our president read newspapers already? *sob*
posted by teradome at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2004


Riviera: I missed you! Welcome back! As usual, you're on the button. Though I must stick up for Mark Steyn: his political columns are unbearably jingoistic and simple-minded (and increasingly self-referential; I fear he may be going mad) but he knows his popular composers and musicals (his "Broadway Babes Say Goodnight" is an excellent book) and, as a hillbilly film critic, he's always readable and often refreshingly honest. His review of Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation", in the latest Spectator, is right on.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2004


I've truly enjoyed reading (and learnt from) this thread but I feel that, in this day and age, no one has appreciated how strange it is for the elite of an enormous country like the U.S. to rely on the former colonizer's state broadcasting system.

I should add that I take this as an example of enlightenment and lack of complexes and a convincing reply to those who accuse Americans of being isolated and self-obsessed.

Yes, the BBC is better. But how many other examples do you have of richer, bigger countries trusting a foreign news source more than their own? The only other case I can think of is the Swiss Neue Zurcher Zeitung, which a lot of intelligent Germans and Austrians read. I remember a beautiful eulogy by the Austrian Austria-hating writer Thomas Bernhard in one of his fine novels (in fact he lamented how much easier it was to find in Lisbon than in Zurich).
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:42 PM on January 15, 2004


Sometimes I find myself having to rationalise things. I have to make a decision about something, throwing all of the supposed facts together and go ahead. Sometimes, usually in fact, I dash in head first, like a solidier into battle and realise I'm going to be hit on the head before I can do anything about it. But I know I have to do something. And at the root of it all is the rationalisation. This is our way of proving to ourselves that we've done the right thing no matter the outcome. I rationalisation I made recently has put me in conflict with all kinds of people. It was the day I decided I was a Guardian reader.

The rationalisation went somthing like this. I worked my way through the newspapers available putting a line through each one when I came to a reason why not.

The Sun Run by Murdoch. Very little to read. Plus I'm from Liverpool and after Hillsborough ...
The Mirror Editorially can't decide what it wants to be about. Mostly unreadable.
The People See above
The Star Just like The Sun.
The Sport If I want porn I have the internet.
The Express Cheap. Nasty. Owned by a porn baron. More down market than ever.
The Daily Mail Too smug, too quick to judge, too closed minded, fixated on some issues when others have moved on.
The Daily Telegraph Too much text. Too tory.
The Independent Too dull. Everything feels like an effort. Often patronising.
The Times Owned by Murdoch. He rules the world you know. Editorially not that much different to The Sun, just uses bigger paper and longer words.
The Guardian Yes I have to dodge the leftism, but at its core a commitment to great journalism. Always find at least five good articles per day worth the 55p. Publishes 'The Guide'. Great website.

I listen to BBC Radio Four all of the time. Even when the newsreaders are intoning about a hold up on the M1 it sounds like history being made. PM with Eddie Maher is indispensable and often very funny. I tried watching ITV News earlier and I felt like I was being preached to. I never feel that with the BBC which is odd because it's always been the nation's Auntie.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:20 PM on January 15, 2004


rely on the BBC (specially the World Service) for accurate coverage

Amen. Our local NPR station plays BBC World Service from 1 to 3 AM, when Morning Edition begins. It's like switching from Madeira 1933 Malmsey J Henriques to Christian Brothers cooking sherry. It is truly depressing to think how pathetic American news broadcasting is.
posted by y2karl at 3:30 PM on January 15, 2004


All of this discussion brings up a question for me:

Why does Canada not have a very good newspaper?

(I'm certainly not ragging on your country, Canadians. I know that you're very proud of your nation and you've every right to be because it's amazing. But the Globe and Mail is merely good and the National Post isn't even good.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:44 PM on January 15, 2004


feelinglistless: well said; my feelings almost exactly.

Two differences: I greatly enjoy the Telegraph and, despite being a Tory, think it has strengths which transcend its obvious conservatism. The Guardian is less abrasive to conservatives than the Telegraph is to liberals because it's a newspaper that genuinely strives to be above politics, in an old-fashioned Manchester Guardian way.

I also disagree about the Mirror. I don't read it every day, but I buy at least one or two editions a week. When on holiday, I buy it every day and enjoy it immensely. I think it's not only a doughty, pithy newspaper, with good national coverage, but getting better. That Piers Morgan, whether he's for the chop or not, is one hell of an editor and he loves news. The Daily Mail, though I'm reactionary enough, I can't stomach - it seems undemocratic and insincere, much like the Sun. Even writers I can just about put up with elsewhere (lovable, predictable old fart Paul Johnson, pompously imperialist Andrew Roberts, pushy and phony Simon Heffer) make me vomit when they write in the Mail. Perhaps it's the sub-editors. As if...

But that was a great summary, at least for me. Thanks!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:13 PM on January 15, 2004


When it comes to what's *really* out there, let me give you a dozen examples of "news", for better or worse, that you *won't* see most anywhere except the Internet. Some truly offbeat stuff, but check it out. (In no particular order). (Oh, and do tell if you find something fascinating.)

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

(6)

(7)

(8)

(9)

(10)

(11)

(12)
posted by kablam at 5:57 PM on January 15, 2004


.....how many other examples do you have of richer, bigger countries trusting a foreign news source more than their own?

I have another example for you. It involves the publication that I work for, The Guardian Weekly and is one of the key factors for its existance. These two paragraphs from the history section of our site explain:
The Guardian Weekly was launched after the end of the first world war. Its first issue came out on July 4, 1919, with a purpose that remains true to this day: "We aim at presenting what is best and most interesting in the (Manchester) Guardian, what is most distinctive and independent of time, in a compact weekly form. We aim at securing that the readers of the weekly edition shall miss nothing of substance in its record and nothing of value in its interpretation of them."

The Weekly performed a valuable service in Germany in the chaotic aftermath of the first world war, where it was seen as a bastion of free ideas by the intellectual left of the ill-starred Weimar Republic. Likewise, after the defeat of 1945, the thirst among Germans for news untainted by fascist ideology was immense. The Guardian Weekly could not meet the demand from its Manchester presses, so it flew out the matrices from which the paper was printed to the Hamburg offices of Die Zeit. The circulation of this special German edition reached an astonishing 100,000.
posted by davehat at 2:47 AM on January 16, 2004


kablam: I have to confess I'm not entirely distressed that the mainstream press doesn't pick up some of those 'stories'. I'm not convinced the Guardian would be better off for having a piece on 'top ten armies in the world, in my opinion' (See (8)).
posted by biffa at 3:04 AM on January 16, 2004


Miguel, I take issue with your assumption that being cosmopolitan means using sources that convey an opinion different from your own. To me, being cosmopolitan means using your freedom to use the best available sources, regardless of their nationality. If that means reading sources that are not written in your native language and centered around your local world, so be it.

I am Portuguese and European, in that order, and I regularly use BBC World and the Guardian as reliable and serious sources of information that complement the national quality media. I also enjoy the pro-business stance of Economist, which unlike most of the mainstream american media is a publication that still seems to think that intellectual honesty is not incompatible with having a political bias.

It's interesting to see the way you equate being liberal or left-wing with being elitist and cosmopolitan. Would you have me believe that since you're a conservative, you're neither elitist nor cosmopolitan? Come on, you're one of the finest specimen of that peculiar class to which most of us MeFi'ers belong, regardless of political bias.

Greetings from a "sulista, elitista e liberal" countryman.
posted by gambuzino at 8:09 AM on January 16, 2004


biffa: Ah, but what would an article about "The Top 10 Militaries in the World" be, as written by the Guardian? Not just plagiarized, but from the perspective of that organ. I think they could really run with it, and in a way that would satisfy their readers.

And that's the point. Journalism gets a LOT better when journalists "push the envelope" in getting information. Not just news, but information, of all kinds.

Several of those sites, and dozens more I have bookmarked are filled with marvelous kookery, lunacy, and perspectives you just won't get elsewhere.

It should be up to the journalist, and the reader, for that matter, to discriminate between reasonable information, kookery, fanaticism and news that just isn't getting out.

A policeman would call them "leads" or "clues", most of which can be discounted. But all too frequently, there are some real gems.

On the flip side, I can cite the case of Venezuela, where the major media are controlled by the opposition, and almost ALL news reaching the US was controlled by ONE (dishonest) man (the AP correspondent) for at least a year.

And that guy was a major bullshitter. Day was night and up was down, and only a few underground Internet media sites spilled the beans on what was really going on in an entire, and important, nation.
posted by kablam at 8:43 AM on January 16, 2004


Newsworld International has been my choice for years.
posted by yoga at 9:52 AM on January 16, 2004


Ah, but what would an article about "The Top 10 Militaries in the World" be, as written by the Guardian? Not just plagiarized, but from the perspective of that organ. I think they could really run with it, and in a way that would satisfy their readers.

By having Britain and Israel spelled correctly, for one!
posted by y2karl at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2004


So who're the British equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Dr. Laura again?

For those you need London talk station LBC and the likes of Nick Ferrari. However, the station does still have to abide by impartiality rules.
posted by kerplunk at 1:02 PM on January 16, 2004


So who're the British equivalent .... James Whale .. don't get me started.

Just appropos of nothing the BBC World Service is paid for by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, not by the licence fee. Looks like we get our money's worth.
posted by grahamwell at 9:51 AM on January 17, 2004


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