Friday, July 31, 2009

BBC Over To You in blog

Hallo and let me say first of all what a delight it is for Over To You to have a new avenue of communication with World Service listeners. I've been presenting the programme since its inception and this, I'm confident, will be a quantum leap in our ability to reflect your thoughts and feelings about programmes and news on the English language network.

With the possible exception of World Have Your Say, the agenda of Over To You is more driven by listener input than any other programme. And with this blog we can increase the level of interactivity. Whatever your reactions to a new documentary, a news report or a radio play, we want your feedback and will then endeavour to create a conversation between you and the programme maker concerned.

One editor recently asked me about our listeners' response to a programme maker admitting they had made a mistake. Well in virtually every case it has been one of great appreciation - you like it when someone is humble enough to concede that the BBC is made up of human beings who, gasp, can make a wrong judgement call. The recently-appointed director of the World Service has talked about breaking down the walls of the fortress that many news organisations and journalists have created between themselves and their audiences. I believe this Over To You blog page can be very much part of that process - along of course with the individual programme wesbites and blogs.

Two things always intrigue me about World Service listeners when I talk to you on the programme or meet you on my travels. Firstly - just how well-read, intelligent and curious about the world they are and how internationalist they are in their approach to everyday issues. (I'm not fawning to you, I promise!) Secondly, how media savvy and interested they are about the process of broadcast journalism and and programme-making. And again we try to give you an insight into that process by going behind the scenes at flagship World Service programmes. Hopefully this blog will enhance our ability to do that.

And we also like to explore significant changes in the media world at large - for instance around issues of citizen journalism, the suppression of news organisations in certain regimes around the world, the obsession with celebrity stories and so on. To that end this coming week you may want to find out more about the lifting of the ban on the BBC in Zimbabwe by the power-sharing adminstration. What does it really mean in terms of independent reporting of the situation in jails, hospitals and the legal system? Will old habits be hard to change on the part of the authorities? Does the Zimbabwean government have ulterior motives for this change of policy?

So from now on this blog - with contributions also from my colleague Cathy Packe - will be reminding you about what the big issues of the week are - both in terms of your reaction to output, and changes inside the World Service at Bush House. In terms of the latter this is clearly something we will want to ask Peter Horrocks, the Director of the World Service when he comes to the Over To You hotseat in the near future.

On this week's programme, one Nigerian listener worries about the effect of the repeated use of terms like "Islamist militant" in news reporting when applied to the perpetrators of violence in the north of his country. The acting head of the newsroom gives her reply. We also look at the new playwriting competition and go behind the scenes to examine the power balance between reporters and editors. Fascinating stuff - give it a listen!

OK - that's the introductions over and done with - now lets get on with discussing what makes the World Service a genuinely unique broadcaster, for better or for worse, we're waiting for your comments...

Rajan Datar is Presenter, Over To You.

Welcome to the BBC World Service blog, Over To You, the place for you to engage us in a dialogue about our programmes and websites.

This blog is jointly run by the Over To You programme, and the BBC World Service website team. We encourage you to send us comments, which we'll moderate, publish - and do our best to respond to.

We'll be posting here about the issues and themes you're discussing on the Over to You programme, multimedia projects and seasons, and new developments on the site.

Please use this blog to tell us about what you'd like to see discussed both here and on the programme. We'll do our best to go behind the scenes and find the right the person to answer your questions. And we may get back to you to arrange an on air interview.

Kate Goldberg is Editor,

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