The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Even its critics no longer call it the Blair Broadcasting Corporation. Rather, the way the BBC has stood up to its masters has everyone in thrall. Especially since it is not such an open and shut case.

It is not that the BBC has documents that incontrovertibly prove the British prime minister or his men lied their way into the war against Iraq. All it has is an allegation from an unnamed source: a top spook had told a BBC correspondent that intelligence reports about Iraq’s WMD capabilities were “sexed up” by Tony Blair’s chief spin doctor. Few would dare take on such powerful men on that basis. The BBC did. Because the correspondent had faith in his source. Because the BBC had faith in its correspondent. That is how journalism at its best often works. No one still knows the identity of Deep Throat, the shadowy figure in underground parking lots revealing crucial information to two Washington Post journalists that brought down a president. In one word, Watergate.

The BBC’s board of governors, all good men appointed by the Blair government, are equally “satisfied that it was in the public interest to broadcast the story, given the information which was available to BBC News at that time.” They are not budging even though a parliamentary committee has exonerated the prime minister’s henchman of the “sexing up” charge. The story is still to be proved wrong, they believe. And the British public is ready to give the benefit of doubt to its public service broadcaster than to its prime minister. Such is the reputation — and power — of the BBC.

Thrilling friendship

It’s called synergy. Print and television teaming up to great effect. It happened for the first time last week. It was the report on the exorbitant fees in private medical and engineering colleges in Maharashtra that NDTV 24x7 showed and both the Indian Express and the Loksatta, the Express group’s leading Marathi daily, published. All three claimed it was their “exclusive expose”.

In fact, the investigation was conducted jointly by one NDTV reporter, one Indian Express reporter and one NDTV cameraman with a hidden camera. A still from the camera and the transcript of conversations were published in the newspapers while the actual tape was run on NDTV as a breaking story. But the different mediums imposed their distinctive treatments. The images, the voices on NDTV were dramatic enough. But it was only last year that the Supreme Court gave a free hand to private colleges in admissions and fees. So what exactly was the wrongdoing' It was not quite clear.

For that you had to turn to the newspapers. Because the problem was rather complicated and required a long and involved explanation (and diluted the excitement somewhat). Such intricacies are not easy to convey on television. Whatever, together the combined impact was huge. And could mark the beginning of an thrilling friendship.

Those morning blues

Television in the morning, how decadent that sounds. It has to be something truly dramatic — the death of Princess Diana, the collapse of the World Trade Center, the war in Iraq — to make one pick up the remote so early in the day. So I used to think.

The initial response to “Breakfast” shows and “Good Morning” programmes matched my assumptions. Few had the time or the inclination for their potpourri of news, exercise regimen, gardening tips, career counselling, Bollywood gossip, recipes, etc. etc. The mornings remained for newspapers. Then came this survey last Friday., an online service for the advertising community, posted a study on its website that analysed recent television viewership data to divine what is prime time on news channels. The answer: mornings as well as evenings. Why people should want to destroy their mornings so is not quite clear. But that’s the way it is.

The study actually looked at Hindi news channels only. But given that 70 per cent watch their news in Hindi, it is pretty much a commentary on all viewers of television news.

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