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Caversham Park is the home of BBC Monitoring which for over 70 years has been the eyes and ears of the BBC, watching, translating and analysing the world’s media and social media. David Amanor visits the former stately home to meet some of the journalists who’ve witnessed history unfold in their own countries, from the Cold War to the Syrian conflict.
Senior Editors Simona Kralova and Chris Greenway take us back in time to tell the story of how this grand house become a hub for information gathering, from the era of morse code and typewriters to satellites and social media.
Sifting information from misinformation has always been part of the service’s DNA. Ukrainian Vitaliy Shevchenko, Iraqi Mina al-Alami, and Source Manager and morse code man Al Bolton discuss the challenges of sourcing reliable information in the past, and today.
Watching distressing news from home is part of daily life for many journalists. Vesna Stancic from Bosnia, Syrian Lina Shaikhouni and Pinar Sevinclidir from Turkey discuss the personal impact of living the story.
There are also lighter moments to be enjoyed at Caversham, particularly for the musical, including Co-ordinating Editor Tom Mulligan, and Iranians Arash Ahmadi and Mahtab Nikpour, who do a good turn on the guitar, jaws harp and drums when not analysing Iranian politics and tales of chubby Chinese squirrels.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who shares his latest post from Medium.com:
Open Source Stupidity: The Threat to the BBC Monitoring Service
Media Network, the weekly communications magazine formerly on Radio Netherlands, is set to return as an independent podcast in 2017, resuming its analysis of international broadcasting.
The first time we visited BBC Monitoring was in August 1989. That broadcast is sitting in the Media Network Vintage Vault. During the previous lifetime of the programme (1980–2000), we worked closely with colleagues from World Broadcasting Information at BBC Monitoring. Search for contributions from Richard Measham and Chris Greenway in the vintage vault of around 450 half-hour programmes.
By way of a prequel to the new series, we asked John Fertaud, who has worked at BBC Monitoring in the past, to analyse and comment on a new UK government report about the future of the service. Here is his analysis.
The Foreign Affairs Committee says BBC Monitoring is vital to the FCO’s scrutiny of developing events across the world. Highly valued by the Government, the service translates and analyses news and information from freely available media sources in 100 different languages and covering 150 countries.
Triggered by a shortfall of £4m in funding, the BBC now proposes an extensive restructure of the service, which would mean the closure of 40% of BBC Monitoring posts in the UK and 20% of posts abroad, and relocation of the service from Caversham to London.
The Government is the prime customer for the service. The Foreign Affairs Committee believes Government should restore funding for open source monitoring of media sources overseas, whether they pay BBC Monitoring or carry out the work themselves.
Chair of the Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, commented:
“BBC Monitoring is a highly regarded organisation whose work is more important than ever.
These cuts to BBC Monitoring, proposed by the BBC, are simply not in the interest of the UK Government. They will not help the FCO improve its performance in detecting trends and undercurrents overseas that have implications for UK policy – something it notably failed to do in Libya, for instance. Given the vast increase in social media output, this kind of monitoring is more important than ever.
Other countries with similar operations fund them from central Government. The principal benefit of the output of BBC Monitoring is better-informed Government policy, which is why the Government should fund it, not the licence fee payer. It’s notable that in the face of these cuts, government departments are in the process of recreating this capability internally. This should not be necessary and we should be bolstering the work of BBC Monitoring, not cutting it.”