Monday, February 14, 2011

How do BBC World Service cuts affect arts program ?

Can Voice of America "rise to the occasion" ?
Elizabeth Kramer: "Nearly two decades ago, I spent three years living on an island in the Indian Ocean's Mozambique Channel. Radio was my only regular link to what was happening beyond the blue-green waters that lapped the shoreline. I learned not only about the fall of the Soviet Union, but that Mary Chapin Carpenter had made a hit out of Lucinda Williams' song 'Passionate Kisses.' I learned about police chasing O.J. Simpson and the death of Kurt Cobain. Much of this kind of news I got on my shortwave radio from Voice of America, the U.S. government's official broadcasting service. The arts coverage here was mostly of the pop-culture variety. It included news about Lisa Bonet's and Lenny Kravitz's divorce and of the movie 'Jurassic Park.' This information gave me a kind of cultural collateral that helped me not sound like an alien when I returned home. But, in general, this wasn't the kind of arts and cultural coverage I listened to much. My station of choice was the BBC's Africa World Service. It's there that I learned about the Young British Artists, including the provocative Damien Hirst, who had come onto London's art scene thanks to Saatchi Gallery, and of notable passings, including the deaths of composer John Cage and famed acting teacher Stella Adler. And of course, I learned even more about the nuance of cultural and political events happening in the United States via Alistair Cooke's weekly 'Letter from America.' ... [A]fter all the cuts [to BBC World Service] have been implemented, it will be interesting to see if these traditions will be audible over the airwaves and if there will be reporting that continues to embrace cultural and art-related topics. News, information about the arts and arts programming could be scarcer in Africa and other remote places. Then again, maybe the vacuum could be filled by some of the Internet and FM networks that have been growing around the world. It could be even more interesting if Voice of America would be able to rise to the occasion, now that it will be the leading global news broadcaster."
(Louisville Courier/Kim Elliott)

Comment is Free
Jonathan Freedland: "By insisting on cutting the budget of the BBC World Service, the government has cast aside what would once have been Tory guiding principles. The BBC estimates that the cuts will not just shrink the payroll by 650 journalists, but shrink the audience by a staggering 30 million listeners. Britain will no longer be the home of the world's biggest broadcaster, losing that pre-eminent place to the Voice of America. The 19th-century Tories who once gazed at the globe from their high-backed leather chairs in Pall Mall's clubs would be appalled: they knew the value of soft power. They would have realised the enduring benefit for Britain in the villagers of Africa, China or India for ever associating the free circulation of ideas with a British accent. With five language services closing entirely and the daily arts programme slashed by a third, Bush House insiders discern a direction of travel that ends with the World Service reduced to a glorified rolling news operation, lacking the country-by-country specialisation and arts, music and drama that made it nothing less than a global force for enlightenment."
(The Guardian/Kim Elliott)