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BBC plan for regional hubs makes financial sense and is good politics for the government – The Conversation UK

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The BBC is calling it a “blueprint for the biggest transformation in decades”. The UK’s national public service broadcaster has announced plans to move hundreds of journalists’ jobs and some programme commissioning out of London, to strengthen both local reporting and the creative economy in the UK’s nations and regions.

With hard questions about the BBC’s long-term financial future being asked, it is one of new director general Tim Davie’s big initiatives to win over a sceptical government that does not believe the BBC represents a balanced view of Britain.

Despite vibrant creative sectors outside of London, politicians have long worried the capital has too large a slice of the creative economy, with almost one in three creative jobs based there. But relocating posts means existing members of staff face uncertainty about the future.

The Conservative government has made it plain that it does not believe its supporters’ views are given enough prominence by the broadcaster. It’s a view that has been reinforced by recent opinion polling.

But Cardiff University research has discovered that, despite noisy criticism from the right, there is no evidence that the BBC’s news coverage leans to the left. Indeed, one study found that during the Brexit referendum, politicians from right-wing parties were quoted five times as often as those in the centre or left of centre parties.




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The BBC intends to use the drive to get out of London to better reflect the makeup and views of other parts of the UK. Too often England has been treated as the default setting. But just because BBC2’s Newsnight is broadcast from Cardiff or Manchester a handful of times a year, does not mean that stories about viewers living in those cities are any more likely to get on air. Or – perhaps worse – there is a risk of clumsy, patronising stories being produced because London-based journalists on tour do not understand the nuances of local issues.

London calling?

One of the big questions that a regionalisation strategy must answer is: to what extent are the teams independent of the view from London? A programme that is commissioned locally and broadcast to a regional audience should be largely independent of London. A specialist team based in the nations or regions that is pitching stories to London-based programme makers will still have to take account of the view from W1A.

The big success story for regionalisation has been the development of the BBC’s northern base at MediaCityUK in Salford. The move of BBC Breakfast, 5 Live and BBC Sport has breathed new life into the media scene in the north-west. But that success is often analysed in economic terms – the extent to which has it aided the regeneration of Salford – rather than in demonstrating plurality or diversity of views in news coverage.


SAKhanPhotography via Shutterstock

After all – notwithstanding its success in recent years, BBC Breakfast has tended to follow a similar news agenda to other morning news shows that are based in London.

Economies of place

Senior editors at BBC News believe the regionalisation plans are a radical shake up that will use the best of BBC journalism across more broadcast and digital platforms and that will cut down on repetition.

The BBC has long faced criticism that it doesn’t make the best use of its resources. All too often, different programmes have deployed their own teams to report the same story. Meanwhile some high-profile and well-paid journalists work exclusively for one programme. That’s now unaffordable.

According to the consumer group Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV), since 2010 cuts have reduced the net public funding of the BBC’s UK services by 30% in real terms. With BBC News cutting back on staff as it strives to implement a further £80m worth of cuts announced in January, there’s a strong case for more sharing of content between different show. An interview recorded for BBC 5 Live, should be equally at home on Radio 4’s Today programme. Gone are the days of programmes rejecting content just because it was made by a rival part of the BBC.

A man with a TV camera filming across the River Thames to Westminster Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
How many camera crews does the BBC need in London?
PeskyMonkey via Shutterstock

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear that even traditionally newsroom-based journalists and production staff can work from home, meaning cost-cutting on offices is an inevitability. If guests can be interviewed via Zoom and viewers will accept lower-quality production values on-air, then broadcasters no longer need to maintain expensive regional studios and newsrooms.

A new culture?

ITV was established in the 1950s as a truly regional public service broadcaster, with franchises and bases around the UK. But during the pandemic, one senior ITV executive told me that its response to the crisis meant the company was getting out of the bricks and mortar business for good.

Journalists will have to come to terms with the culture change of working from either a large regional hub or from home. That is especially true for people starting out in their careers, as some older hands have pointed out.

A balance of risks and benefits then for the BBC in its move to push jobs and commissioning outside of London.

But there is one other big winner in all of this. The UK’s government. The Conservative party’s scepticism of the ongoing and future value of the BBC has meant that it has been able to strong-arm the Beeb into backing its “levelling-up” agenda.

For a party with an eye on both the post-COVID recovery and the election of 2024, there is a lot to be said for moving jobs and money to parts of the country that, perhaps surprisingly, backed it in 2019. That may just be the price for putting up with the status quo in BBC funding for another decade.

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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