Daily Archives: 30 April 2007

If you can’t trust the BBC, what can you trust?

Partly because of our colonial past and partly because of abominable present, the BBC has become the voice of reason and authority for most literate Indians, journalists and otherwise. Radio, television or internet, in English, Hindi or Urdu, we devour “Auntie” (as the Beeb is called in old bilayati) and can’t tire of repeating how Rajiv Gandhi switched it on to confirm intelligence reports of the assassination of his mother, Indira.

But is the BBC all that it is made out to be—fair, balanced, objective, non-partisan?It is, but probably isn’t as it is used to be. “Can we trust the BBC?” asks Robert Aitken, who had a 25-year spell at Bush House, in a new book and rakes up the old bogey about liberal bias.

“I think the BBC, by and large, lines up behind what I would term the progressive consensus on whatever issue one happens to be talking about. So for instance, during the era of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, the BBC was too willing to find excuses for Soviet misdeeds and excesses; was too sympathetic for the notion of unilateral nuclear disarmament; was too hostile and suspicious of the motives of the US.

“In other words, it was too skeptical of the West and its motives; not skeptical enough of the Soviet Union and its motives. And I think that in bending over backwards to be fair, it often tips the other way, and is actually unfair to our side if you like.”

Read the full article here:  A powerfully corrosive internal culture


Stocks yesterday. Books today. Tomorrow?

As the delivery of information instantly and instantaneously becomes possible through a variety of devices (television, internet, mobile phones to name just three) the accountants who masquerade as managers but are not brave enough to call themselves editors have been forced to ask themselves some seemingly tough questions.

Like, do we really need to provide our readers a page full of stock quotes every morning?

The logic, as arrived at by calculators, is simple. Only a small percentage of people invest directly in the stock market. Within any newspaper’s readership, that figure gets even smaller. So, should we be devoting so much space for so small an audience? The unsurprising answer is no.

Now, the same cost-cutting, downsizing, rightsizing, rationalising accountants are asking a similar question about the books pages and supplements.

The logic is strikingly similar. Are we providing the kind of information through our books pages that an avid books reader hasn’t already received? If he hasn’t, can’t he make the effort to, say, go online, to procure that information? Again, the unsurprising answer is no.

The latest newspaper to junk its books review, writes NIKHIL MORO from Atlanta, is The Atlanta Journal -Constitution. It is doing away with the job of books editor held by Teresa Weaver, and may even be planning to dissolve the whole books review section.

But, unlike in India, where The Times of India‘s decision to do likewise some years ago, did not even evoke a whimper of protest from readers or writers (as if to silently second the accountants’ logic), the Atlanta Writers Club is organising a protest demonstration on Thursday, May 3, contest a “myopic act devalues the readers and writers of our region.”

We pride ourselves on our thriving literary community, so what message is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution delivering about us when it begins to dismantle a prime outlet for news and reviews about books?

It is asking readers and book lovers to sign an online petition, and it is asking them to assemble in the hundreds and hold a demonstration outside the front doors of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 10 am by reading from a book (or may books) they have brought along.

Will it work? Don’t know/can’t say. But at least there is a loud reaction unlike in Incredible India.

But the really scary part is this: yesterday it was the stocks pages, today it is the books pages. What will it be tomorrow, since almost everything that our newspapers produce is already available several hours before to whoever wants, provided he or she makes the effort?

Related link: The folly of downsizing book reviews