BBC criticized as it expands, maybe into propaganda

Sep 20, 2015 5:20 pm
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In a July 16, 2015 Voice of America press release quotes new Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari: “My daily life starts at 6 a.m. by dedicating 30 minutes to listening to Voice of America. I am an avid listener of VOA because you are fair, professional, and balanced, which all add up to the fact that you are the station I love to fear." The British Broadcasting Corporation wants to get back to its glory days of providing "fair, professional, and balanced" reports to regimes around the globe that do not want to hear such tales. Faced with $1 billion in budget cuts from a conservative government, the BBC now wants to expand its worldwide services, specifically targeting listeners in countries with little free media. "Arguing that it had a mission to uphold the values of 'democracy and liberty,' the corporation said it would set up new shortwave services to broadcast into those countries with a deficit of both, namely North Korea, Eritrea and Ethiopia. It will boost its digital presence in Russia, where it may set up a satellite-television channel, and beef up its Arabic service," The Economist reported. The BBC's budget is also hurt by £240m a year in costs being transferred from the Foreign Office to the radio service last year, a nod that what was once propaganda is now more like journalism. But not all are happy about the budget battle over the BBC. Gary D. Rawnsley, Professor of Public Diplomacy at Aberystwyth University, writes in the USC Center on Public Diplomacy blog, "In announcing the creation of a satellite TV service for Russian speakers and a daily radio news program for North Korea, the Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, is in danger of crossing the fine line between public diplomacy and propaganda." Rawnsley says Hall is wrong to claim the BBC has a mission to uphold liberty. "The BBC World Service has one commitment only: to provide timely, impartial, and accurate news and information for its listeners around the world. The BBC is not an instrument of Cold War politics; and it is not a mechanism for the promotion of democracy in any area of the world. It is a model of journalism that is the envy of news broadcasters across the globe."