BBC World Service: 'So Dangerous Because it's Impartial'

BBC Radio 4 (Today) - 29 February 2012
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On Radio 4's Today show, James Naughtie speaks with BBC World Service Director Peter Horricks and journalist John McCarthy as they celebrate 80 years of the BBC World Service (BBC broadcasting in different languages around the world).

As we might imagine, all discussion is based on assumptions that the BBC World Service is founded on altruism and is a 'force for good'. It is claimed that the BBC gave the 'unvarnished truth' to the Arab speaking world during the Arab Spring, and that Iran doesn't like the BBC because it 'tells the truth as it is'. This page features is a clip of the discussion. The full audio can be found here.

Below are a few excerpts from the conversation:

(1) Peter Horrocks: ...when people have other sources of news that they can't trust, they turn to the BBC for the unvarnished truth, and that's clearly what happened in the Arabic speaking world last year...

(2) James Naughtie: The argument has always been that ... the world service represents ... a force for good in some undefined way around the world. Do you believe that is still there?
John McCarthy: I think that's definitely there, it does affect the way the world sees us. That fantastic reputation for impartiality, for being not biased etc., does affect the way the world sees us...

(3) Peter Horrocks: ...the Iranian government sees it [the BBC World Service] as such a threat. And a report from the Iranian government it described it as 'so dangerous because it's impartial.' Not because it's propagandist or oppositionist, because it tells the truth as it is. And I believe that's a historic value which the world service represented...

It would be interesting to know, for example, the extent to which the BBC World service informed Arab Spring of the UK's involvement with and arms sales to repressive regimes in the region.

Listen to the audio clip from 29 February 2012:

View all audio entries

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Comments (1)

1. Duncan Ball29 February 2012 15:24


Heard the program this morning. Ended up swearing / laughing at the radio again. Like as if the BBC doesn't do propaganda.



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