Posts tagged bbc

The Day There Was No News

On April 18, 1930, the BBC decided there was no news worth reporting. Solution: the then eight-year-old broadcaster played piano music instead.

If only there were a Monty Python reenactment of that.

It’s hard to overstate absinthe’s cultural impact – or imagine a contemporary equivalent…Absinthe solidified or destroyed friendships, and created visions and dream-like states that filtered into artistic work. It shaped Symbolism, Surrealism, Modernism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism. Dozens of artists took as their subjects absinthe drinkers and the ritual paraphernalia: a glass, slotted spoon, sugar cubes – sugar softened the bitter bite of cheaper brands – and fountains dripping cold water to dilute the liquor.
Delia Derbyshire & BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop
Utne Reader:

One of the biggest challenges to appreciating avant-garde culture is accessibility. Often, the art, music, film, or literature is so different from the accepted mainstream that when it stands on its own, most people find it impossible to understand and pointless to try.
But in the 1960s, some avant-garde artists started to find ways to attach innovative and progressive art to the mainstream. One such example was the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which used electronic sounds to create the futuristic soundscapes and themes that punctuated and complemented BBC radio broadcasts of the era. As Frances Morgan points out in the September 2013 issue of Sight & Sound, this helped experimental musicians bypass the critics and directly introduce their forward-thinking music to millions of British radio listeners. As part of the shared cultural experience of listening to the radio, music that was at first considered radical became familiar and eventually even nostalgic for those who grew up with it. 
One of the most notable of the BBC technicians was Delia Derbyshire, who worked in the Workshop from 1960 to 1973. While she compiled more than 260 reel-to-reel tapes of electronic sound compositions over that time.

Derbyshire is well-known for the Doctor Who original theme song. Utne Reader points to a BBC documentary about her called the Sculptress of Sound, which, if you’re interested in the history of the workshop, and in the woman who was a pioneer of (the then male-dominated) electronic music world, you should watch.
Image: Dick Mills and Mark Ayres, two veterans of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop use surviving equipment to revive sounds from the past. (via Paul Townsend)

Delia Derbyshire & BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop

Utne Reader:

One of the biggest challenges to appreciating avant-garde culture is accessibility. Often, the art, music, film, or literature is so different from the accepted mainstream that when it stands on its own, most people find it impossible to understand and pointless to try.

But in the 1960s, some avant-garde artists started to find ways to attach innovative and progressive art to the mainstream. One such example was the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which used electronic sounds to create the futuristic soundscapes and themes that punctuated and complemented BBC radio broadcasts of the era. As Frances Morgan points out in the September 2013 issue of Sight & Sound, this helped experimental musicians bypass the critics and directly introduce their forward-thinking music to millions of British radio listeners. As part of the shared cultural experience of listening to the radio, music that was at first considered radical became familiar and eventually even nostalgic for those who grew up with it. 

One of the most notable of the BBC technicians was Delia Derbyshire, who worked in the Workshop from 1960 to 1973. While she compiled more than 260 reel-to-reel tapes of electronic sound compositions over that time.

Derbyshire is well-known for the Doctor Who original theme song. Utne Reader points to a BBC documentary about her called the Sculptress of Sound, which, if you’re interested in the history of the workshop, and in the woman who was a pioneer of (the then male-dominated) electronic music world, you should watch.

Image: Dick Mills and Mark Ayres, two veterans of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop use surviving equipment to revive sounds from the past. (via Paul Townsend)

Glenn Greenwald v The BBC: How Journalism Works Edition

The BBC’s Newsnight interviewed The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald about the Edward Snowden NSA leaks last week.

Many of the questions are strange. On a scale of did-she-really-ask-that to facepalm, most fall somewhere in the middle. Take, in a paraphrased instance, “How do you know that your reporting isn’t helping terrorists?”

Because, terrorism.

Greenwald’s been in this seat many times before (think: Meet the Press’ David Gregory asking him why he shouldn’t be arrested along with Snowden for the leaks) and goes through his laundry list of what journalism is, how it works and why just because the government says it’s true doesn’t necessarily make it true.

NYU’s Jay Rosen has a good rundown on the exchange. In particular, the journalist’s strawman tick of beginning questions with something along the lines of, “Some people say… .”

Via Rosen:

I’ve been talking about this interview on Twitter today because to me this is a weak form of journalism. It takes common criticisms made of the subject and simply thrusts them at him one after the other to see how he handles it. The basic format is: “People say this about you. What is your response?” Questions 1-7, 9 and 13 are all of that type.

Defenders of this style always say the same thing: Hey, that was a tough interview! People in the public eye should be made to answer their doubters. You may not like it, especially if you’re a fan of the person in question, but that’s our job as journalists: to be tough but fair.

No, your job as a journalist is to decide which of the common criticisms have merit, and ask about those, leaving the meritless to chatrooms. It is also to synthesize new criticisms, and ask about those. It is to advance the conversation, not just replay it. People say these bad things about you– what is your response? is outsourcing the work to other interested parties. It doesn’t make for a tough interview; it makes for a predictable one, easier for the subject to handle. It’s also the cheapest and simplest way to manufacture an “adversarial” atmosphere

Video runtime: ~14 worthwhile minutes.

The Story of Physics… Up To Einstein Edition

Via physicsphysics:

BBC Science Club came up with this tremendous short animation video detailing the history of physics. You probably know the names —Galileo, Newton, Einstein— but this video dives into a few things that you probably weren’t taught.

Directed by Asa Lucander.

FJP: Delightful.

Door Number One, Door Number Two?
Via Stowe Boyd.

Door Number One, Door Number Two?

Via Stowe Boyd.

The UK’s War on Porn
Public wi-fi will soon ban access to porn in the UK, pornography depicting rape and child abuse will be outlawed, and all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will use a specialized filtering system called “default-on” that requires Internet users to “opt out” of the filter if they wish to view adult content. Those are just some of the terms on the list of reforms that British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.
Cameron also said, “The Daily Mail has campaigned hard to make Internet search engine filters ‘default on.’ Today they can declare that campaign a success.” 
Turns out, that’s not really true. 
According to The Independent, many of the ISPs didn’t actually agree to a “default-on” system, but agreed instead to something called Active Choice + — a software restriction allowing people to filter out violent or sexual content if they want to (meaning that not all providers filter porn by default). 
A Department of Education letter (that was leaked to BBC) was sent to these ISPs on behalf of Cameron, demanding that they promote their software protection as “default-on” when it’s really not. The letter says: 

The Prime Minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental Internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally. Without changing what you will be offering (i.e. Active-Choice +), the Prime Minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions as “default-on.” 

Basically, Cameron wants to give the public a false sense of protection against adult content by telling people the new filters have been fully implemented.
New York Magazine describes Cameron’s method as “soft paternalism,” a term defined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge, as a way to incentivize people who are otherwise “inherently choice-averse” by changing the environment ever so slightly; the change could then influence people to behave in whatever way desired. So, in theory, if people are given the sense that their Internet doesn’t allow porn, perhaps they won’t go searching for it in the first place. 
Former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre Jim Gamble told CNN that the UK government is having this averse reaction to porn because in two recent child murder cases, it was discovered that the killers had viewed child porn before the murders occurred. So, what started as a fight against child pornographers escalated to a fight against all porn.
Gamble says that what the government is doing is ineffective. Blocking porn on the Internet doesn’t stop the child pornographers from abusing children, it merely erases some evidence of it. Child pornographers don’t use Google for their pornography; they’re generally very knowledgeable about the Internet, and typically host these images on peer to peer sites deep within the web. So even if Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook, among others, agree to remove and report what they discover, they’re not finding the majority of the content. More money should be spent on rescuing these kids, and it’s not being done. 
FJP: One feeble method that’s in place to try to catch the perpetrators involves an online photo database of children that are thought to be at risk of abuse. If these child pornographers are as Internet savvy as Gamble says they are, and the government is creating an online gallery of children who are at risk, you might as well paint targets on their backs. - Krissy
Related FJP Porn Posts: Banning Porn, The Internet’s Effects on The Porn Industry
Image: NYMagazine

The UK’s War on Porn

Public wi-fi will soon ban access to porn in the UK, pornography depicting rape and child abuse will be outlawed, and all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will use a specialized filtering system called “default-on” that requires Internet users to “opt out” of the filter if they wish to view adult content. Those are just some of the terms on the list of reforms that British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.

Cameron also said, “The Daily Mail has campaigned hard to make Internet search engine filters ‘default on.’ Today they can declare that campaign a success.” 

Turns out, that’s not really true. 

According to The Independent, many of the ISPs didn’t actually agree to a “default-on” system, but agreed instead to something called Active Choice + — a software restriction allowing people to filter out violent or sexual content if they want to (meaning that not all providers filter porn by default). 

A Department of Education letter (that was leaked to BBC) was sent to these ISPs on behalf of Cameron, demanding that they promote their software protection as “default-on” when it’s really not. The letter says: 

The Prime Minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental Internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally. Without changing what you will be offering (i.e. Active-Choice +), the Prime Minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions as “default-on.” 

Basically, Cameron wants to give the public a false sense of protection against adult content by telling people the new filters have been fully implemented.

New York Magazine describes Cameron’s method as “soft paternalism,” a term defined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge, as a way to incentivize people who are otherwise “inherently choice-averse” by changing the environment ever so slightly; the change could then influence people to behave in whatever way desired. So, in theory, if people are given the sense that their Internet doesn’t allow porn, perhaps they won’t go searching for it in the first place. 

Former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre Jim Gamble told CNN that the UK government is having this averse reaction to porn because in two recent child murder cases, it was discovered that the killers had viewed child porn before the murders occurred. So, what started as a fight against child pornographers escalated to a fight against all porn.

Gamble says that what the government is doing is ineffective. Blocking porn on the Internet doesn’t stop the child pornographers from abusing children, it merely erases some evidence of it. Child pornographers don’t use Google for their pornography; they’re generally very knowledgeable about the Internet, and typically host these images on peer to peer sites deep within the web. So even if Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook, among others, agree to remove and report what they discover, they’re not finding the majority of the content. More money should be spent on rescuing these kids, and it’s not being done. 

FJP: One feeble method that’s in place to try to catch the perpetrators involves an online photo database of children that are thought to be at risk of abuse. If these child pornographers are as Internet savvy as Gamble says they are, and the government is creating an online gallery of children who are at risk, you might as well paint targets on their backs. - Krissy

Related FJP Porn Posts: Banning PornThe Internet’s Effects on The Porn Industry

Image: NYMagazine

Fake Blogs and Social Media Accounts Smear Exiled Iranian Journalists

Via The Guardian:

Iran has been conducting a smear campaign designed to intimidate Iranian journalists living in exile, including apparent death threats. Cyber-activists linked to the Islamic republic have fabricated news, duplicated Facebook accounts and spread false allegations of sexual misconduct by exiled journalists, while harassment of family members back in Iran has been stepped up by security officials.

Staff at the BBC’s Persian service in London are among dozens of Iranian journalists who have been subjected to what appears to be an operation sponsored by the authorities and aimed at discrediting reporters in the eyes of the public in Iran…

…In recent weeks, the pro-regime activists have set up a number of fake Facebook accounts and blogs, purporting to belong to BBC journalists or their Iranian colleagues. Web users who want to access the real BBCPersian.com, might accidentally visit its counterfeit at persianbbc.ir. The fake site mirrors the BBC’s site in design and fonts but has completely different content...

…Nafiseh Kouhnavard, a presenter on BBC Persian’s talkshow Your Turn, is one of the victims. In a fake Facebook account that carries her name and picture, she supposedly confesses to a culture of extramarital relationships among journalists working for the BBC’s Persian service. The fake comments attributed to Kouhnavard were reproduced extensively in Iran.

"You wrote about my relationships with my colleagues," she is falsely quoted by a national newspaper in Iran as saying. "Swinging … is not only limited to me, in fact it is common and normal here.

First carried in Vatan-e-Emrooz daily, the fake material has since been republished by state-affiliated news organisations. The fabricated contents are usually chosen carefully to target the most sensitive issues in Iran, especially among conservatives wary of western lifestyles.

The Guardian, Iran creates fake blogs in smear campaign against journalists in exile.

The playbook for beating bureaucracy and kicking butt in online news (from the BBC?)

What!? We’re saying that you could look to the BBC, that bastion of guidelines, policies, multiple reporting lines and warring fiefdoms, for a lesson in decisive, agile product launches? Strange times indeed.

This is a special case, though; BBC News Online, before the iPlayer, made the single greatest argument for the BBC’s ongoing value in the digital era. It reaches huge audiences, the content is top notch, as is its user experience.

On the 15th anniversary of the BBC News Online launch, UK tech site The Register has the inside story of how a handful of brilliant political operators, nuanced technical architects, and journalism visionaries navigated Aunty’s byways to build one of the worlds greatest news services.

Scoop! The inside story of the news website that saved the BBC has four parts:

  • The ah-ha! moment in 1996 when BBC Director General John Birt saw a news online prototype, ignored the question of whether the BBC had the legal right to go ahead and the team took a skunkworks approach.
  • The team building phase when content-focussed technologists made the crucial decisions of which systems to tap into, which systems to bypass, and how to get journalists to change their production process.
  • Picking the right battles; co-operating with branding, sidestepping back-office tech, paring back stakeholders.
  • Nurturing the newborn; featuring the wonderfully snide label for the BBC Online head office “Powerpoint House”.

For me, who worked in a similar bureaucracy for twelve years, The Register’s story raises an interesting question. Now, we can clearly see that the BBC news online team’s political effort, conflict, and compromises were, for all the pain they caused at the time, a minuscule price to pay to start the service. But that’s partially because they were leveraging a gigantically powerful and valuable journalism operation; the BBC. If you had to fight the same-sized political battle in a tiny news operation, there’d be a temptation to start a new business outside old practices and organizations, and you’d expect the cause of journalism to be better off. Bureaucracy is a fact of life at a big organization like the BBC, to be minimized wherever possible, but inevitable at some level. There’s clearly a continuum between a small-town newspaper and the BBC, and somewhere along that continuum the reward for political effort is greater than the cost. Where’s your company?

—Fergus

Twitter is not just a closed coffee shop among friends. It goes out to hundreds of thousands of people and you must take responsibility for it. It is not a place where you can gossip and say things with impunity, and we are about to demonstrate that.

Andrew Reid, lawyer for Former Tory Party treasurer Alistair McAlpine, to the Daily Mirror. Tweet revenge: Tory to sue 10,000 Twitter users who branded him a paedo.

The News: Earlier this month the BBC’s Newsnight aired a program about an unresolved sex abuse scandal that took place in UK children’s homes in the 1970s and 1980s. In it, Newsnight linked an unnamed Conservative Party member to the crimes but, oddly, never actually named him.

Soon, however, Twitter users were identifying Alistair McAlpine as the unnamed politician. Which he isn’t, or wasn’t, as the case may be.

In the aftermath, the BBC’s director general George Entwistle resigned and two BBC news executives, Helen Boaden, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell have “stepped aside.”

Now, McAlpine intends to sue those who tweeted and/or retweeted the allegations. The Daily Mirror reports that 10,000 people have been identified.

Today, I also read the diary written for the BBC (in Urdu) and published in the newspaper. My mother liked my pen name ‘Gul Makai’ and said to my father ‘why not change her name to Gul Makai?’ I also like the name because my real name means ‘grief stricken’.

My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was. My father said that he smiled but could not even say that it was written by his daughter.

14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, in her 2009 diary for BBC Urdu, about life under Taliban rule.

She wrote the series under a pen name until the Taliban were driven out of Swat, after which her identity was known and she won a national award for bravery, as well as a nomination for an international children’s peace award. 

On Tuesday, she was shot.

BBC reports:

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman told the BBC they carried out the attack.

Ehsanullah Ehsan told BBC Urdu that they attacked her because she was anti-Taliban and secular, adding that she would not be spared.

Malala Yousafzai was travelling with at least one other girl when she was shot, but there are differing accounts of how events unfolded.

One report, citing local sources, says a bearded gunman stopped a car full of schoolgirls, and asked for Malala Yousafzai by name, before opening fire.

But a police official also told BBC Urdu that unidentified gunmen opened fire on the schoolgirls as they were about to board a van or bus.

She was hit in the head and, some reports say, in the neck area by a second bullet, but is now in hospital and is reportedly out of danger. Another girl who was with her at the time was also injured.

FJP: Horrifying. 

BBC Syria Coverage Uses Wrong Photo from Wrong Country and Wrong Year
The BBC published the photo above yesterday to illustrate the massacres taking place in Houla, Syria.
Problem is, the photo was taken by Marco di Lauro south of Baghdad in 2003.
Via the Telegraph:

Mr di Lauro, who works for Getty Images picture agency and has been published by newspapers across the US and Europe, said: “I went home at 3am and I opened the BBC page which had a front page story about what happened in Syria and I almost felt off from my chair.
“One of my pictures from Iraq was used by the BBC web site as a front page illustration claiming that those were the bodies of yesterday’s massacre in Syria and that the picture was sent by an activist.
“Instead the picture was taken by me and it’s on my web site, on the feature section regarding a story I did In Iraq during the war called Iraq, the aftermath of Saddam. “What I am really astonished by is that a news organization like the BBC doesn’t check the sources and it’s willing to publish any picture sent it by anyone: activist, citizen journalist or whatever. That’s all.”
He added he was less concerned about an apology or the use of image without consent, adding: “What is amazing it’s that a news organization has a picture proving a massacre that happened yesterday in Syria and instead it’s a picture that was taken in 2003 of a totally different massacre.”

FJP Pro Tip: a reverse image search could have flagged this photo in seconds. Where to do it? We use Google Image Search (instead of typing a search term in the text box select the camera icon which allows you to either enter the URL of an image or upload one) and Tineye (the process is the same).
Image: An Iraqi girl jumps over body bags containing skeletons found in the desert south of Baghdad. Marco di Lauro, 2003.

BBC Syria Coverage Uses Wrong Photo from Wrong Country and Wrong Year

The BBC published the photo above yesterday to illustrate the massacres taking place in Houla, Syria.

Problem is, the photo was taken by Marco di Lauro south of Baghdad in 2003.

Via the Telegraph:

Mr di Lauro, who works for Getty Images picture agency and has been published by newspapers across the US and Europe, said: “I went home at 3am and I opened the BBC page which had a front page story about what happened in Syria and I almost felt off from my chair.

“One of my pictures from Iraq was used by the BBC web site as a front page illustration claiming that those were the bodies of yesterday’s massacre in Syria and that the picture was sent by an activist.

“Instead the picture was taken by me and it’s on my web site, on the feature section regarding a story I did In Iraq during the war called Iraq, the aftermath of Saddam. “What I am really astonished by is that a news organization like the BBC doesn’t check the sources and it’s willing to publish any picture sent it by anyone: activist, citizen journalist or whatever. That’s all.”

He added he was less concerned about an apology or the use of image without consent, adding: “What is amazing it’s that a news organization has a picture proving a massacre that happened yesterday in Syria and instead it’s a picture that was taken in 2003 of a totally different massacre.”

FJP Pro Tip: a reverse image search could have flagged this photo in seconds. Where to do it? We use Google Image Search (instead of typing a search term in the text box select the camera icon which allows you to either enter the URL of an image or upload one) and Tineye (the process is the same).

Image: An Iraqi girl jumps over body bags containing skeletons found in the desert south of Baghdad. Marco di Lauro, 2003.

1. The model which has guided many people’s thinking in this area, the 1/9/90 rule, is outmoded. The number of people participating online is significantly higher than 10%.

Above is just one finding of 6 by BBC’s Holly Goodier, who has spent a good deal of time assessing online participation patterns in the UK. Here are the other 5, which she and her team culled from a general agreement that the former audience is becoming more and more active online:

2. Participation is now the rule rather than the exception: 77% of the UK online population is now active in some way.
3. This has been driven by the rise of ‘easy participation’: activities which may have once required great effort but now are relatively easy, expected and every day. 60% of the UK online population now participates in this way, from sharing photos to starting a discussion.
4. Despite participation becoming relatively ‘easy’, almost a quarter of people (23%) remain passive - they do not participate at all.
5. Passivity is not as rooted in digital literacy as traditional wisdom may have suggested. 11% of the people who are passive online today are early adopters. They have the access and the ability but are choosing not to participate.
6. Digital participation now is best characterised through the lens of choice. These are the decisions we take about whether, when, with whom and around what, we will participate. Because participation is now much more about who we are, than what we have, or our digital skill.

See here for more on the 1/9/90 rule.

The BBC Approves this Camera
Via the British Journal of Photography:

Canon has today announced that its Cinema EOS C300 camera “has met the standards the BBC requires from cameras tested to the EBU recommendation EBU R118.”
The approval allows both internal and external BBC production teams to use the EOS C300 “for the production of a variety of programmes to be broadcast on the BBC’s range of HD channels.”

In a separate article the BJP writes about the camera’s technical details and how it was created.

The BBC Approves this Camera

Via the British Journal of Photography:

Canon has today announced that its Cinema EOS C300 camera “has met the standards the BBC requires from cameras tested to the EBU recommendation EBU R118.”

The approval allows both internal and external BBC production teams to use the EOS C300 “for the production of a variety of programmes to be broadcast on the BBC’s range of HD channels.”

In a separate article the BJP writes about the camera’s technical details and how it was created.