BBC To Offer Journalism Master Classes Free Online

(Guardian) – THE PUBLIC WILL BE ABLE TO GAIN ONLINE ACCESS to master classes delivered by some of the BBC‘s best-known journalists, including John Simpson and John Humphrys, under plans to be announced later today.

BBC executives plan to let licence-fee payers use the corporation’s internal training website, which includes thousands of hours of material, as part of a range of partnership agreements. Rival news organisations and broadcasters will also be able to use the material.

The BBC claims the website is the most comprehensive of its type in the world. Other journalists who contribute material include the BBC business editor, Robert Peston, and the security correspondent, Frank Gardner.

This initiative will be unveiled later today at the official launch of the BBC Academy, the corporation’s dedicated centre of excellence for training in journalism, production, leadership and technology.

The BBC will claim the new initiatives are part of an unprecedented strategy to develop partnerships and give wider access to the corporation’s training resources and skills to support the wider UK media industry.

The website is part of the BBC College of Journalism, which has been running for three years as an internal BBC resource. It teaches basic journalistic skills as well as ethics and values. The site will be available free within the UK, and by subscription elsewhere.

Other ventures expected to be announced at the launch include a joint initiative with Channel 4 to increase understanding of diversity in the workplace through a series of workshops. The BBC will also team up with ITV to give people with disabilities a greater chance to find employment within the media industry.

The BBC will make its Multiplatform Foundation training model available to other broadcasters and organisations including the independent producers’ trade body, Pact, and the broadcasting union, Bectu.

Today’s BBC Academy launch will be attended by the director general, Mark Thompson, and the deputy director general, Mark Byford, who chairs the academy’s board.”The BBC is determined to support the wider UK media industry through difficult times and by sharing valuable training resources like the College of Journalism we can help to secure the best standards and learning in the world,” Byford will tell attendees at the launch.

“These new measures build upon our video news syndication, Radio Live Player and other partnerships to support the media industry which is why we are extending our partnership commitments in training to work with other organisations in a challenging media landscape.”

The BBC says the new initiative demonstrates that it is willing to help commercial competitors. The corporation has come under pressure to share resources with ITV and others because of the financial security the licence fee guarantees at a time when rivals are struggling in the wake of falling revenues.

The BBC’s Charter agreement with the government also includes a responsibility to train the broadcasting industry.

BBC Tightens Security For Griffin

(Reuters) – BBC BOSSES ARE BRACED for chaos and possible scenes of violence today after inviting right-wing nationalist politician Nick Griffin to appear on its flagship current affairs panel show, Question Time.

Security has been stepped up inside and outside the BBC’s West London studios, where hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators are expected to take on the likes of the local British National Party (BNP), of which Griffin is national chairman, when the show goes on air tonight.

A last-ditch effort to take control of the situation by the BBC Trust, which met late last night to discuss rescinding the invitation, ended in impasse. The trust, the governing body of the broadcaster, said it could not take such action before the programme airs.

‘We have decided it would be wrong for the trust to intervene in a programme not yet broadcast — even one as plainly controversial as this,’ BBC trustee Richard Tait said.

‘To do so would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC — something we are strongly committed to preserve. Until it is broadcast, the content of Thursday’s Question Time is entirely a matter for the director-general.’

The decision to allow the head of the far-right BNP a berth on one of the U.K.’s highest-profile current affairs programmes has drawn fury from some political quarters who say the BBC is giving the party undue publicity.

It also has been attacked by anti-BNP campaigners who have threatened to demonstrate outside the BBC’s headquarters and attempt to disrupt the broadcast.

Griffin, who has questioned whether the Holocaust took place and attacked the U.K.’s tolerance towards immigrants, leads a political party that aims to repatriate immigrants and discriminate against blacks, Asians and other non-white groups. He has said that appearing on the BBC show will significantly boost his party’s profile.

‘This could be the key moment that propels the BNP into the big time,’ Griffin said. ‘Never before have we had the chance to present our patriotic, common-sense solutions to Britain’s nightmare situation to the public at large in such a prominent fashion.’

The BBC has defended its decision to invite Griffin, saying that because the party won seats in the recent European Parliament elections, it has a right to be represented.

… (Reuters, 22/10/2009) – UK far-right leader’s TV slot sparks protests

… (Reuters, 24/10/2009) – BNP leader gets mixed reviews in London stronghold

BBC Against Charging For Its Online Content

(Press Gazette) – BBC DIRECTOR GENERAL Mark Thompson has ruled out easing News International’s planned transition to paid-for online content by charging for BBC news online.

He told The Guardian: ‘I would rather the BBC was abolished than we started encrypting news to stop people seeing it.’

But he said that a stragic review of the corporation, which is due to deliver recommendations early next year, will lead to ‘narrower services.’

He said that the ownership of magazines and commercial division Worldwide is under review.

Defending pay at the BBC, Thompson claimed that staff accept a ‘discount’ on their salary to work for the corporation.

And responding to widespread criticism of the BBC in the rest of the media in recent months, Thompson said: ‘The rest of the British media have come to see the BBC as a direct competitive threat in a way they never used to. I think it’s fair to say that that’s colouring their coverage of the BBC.’

Murdoch Blames BBC For Empire Woes

(BBC) – NEWS CORPORATION’S JAMES MURDOCH has said that a ‘dominant’ BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK.

The chairman of the media giant in Europe, which owns the Times and Sun, also blamed the UK government for regulating the media ‘with relish.’

‘The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision,’ he told the Edinburgh Television Festival.

The scope of the BBC’s activities and ambitions was ‘chilling,’ he added.

Organisations like the BBC, funded by the licence fee, as well as Channel 4 and Ofcom, made it harder for other broadcasters to survive, he argued.

‘The BBC is dominant,’ Mr Murdoch said. ‘Other organisations might rise and fall but the BBC’s income is guaranteed and growing.’

News Corporation, which owns Sky television, lost $3.4bn (£2bn) in the year to the end of June, which his father, News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, said had been ‘the most difficult in recent history.’

Other media organisations are also struggling as advertising revenues have dropped during the downturn.

Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, told the BBC’s World Tonight that Mr Murdoch had underplayed the importance of Sky as a competitor.

‘Sky continues to grow and get stronger and stronger all the time so this is not quite a set of minnows and a great big BBC,’ Sir Michael said.

‘The BBC has a very strong competitor in Sky, and not one to be ignored.’

Mr Murdoch said free news on the web provided by the BBC made it ‘incredibly difficult’ for private news organisations to ask people to pay for their news.

‘It is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it,’ he said.

News Corporation has said it will start charging online customers for news content across all its websites.

Former BBC director general Greg Dyke said Mr Murdoch’s argument that the BBC was a ‘threat’ to independent journalism was ‘fundamentally wrong.’

He told BBC Radio 5 live: ‘Journalism is going through a very difficult time — not only in this country but every country in the world — because newspapers, radio and television in the commercial world are all having a very rough time.’

He said declining advertising revenues in the recession, rather than the corporation, were to blame for the problems facing the commercial media.

‘That is nothing to do with the BBC, that is just to do with what’s happening,’ he said.

News Corporation owns the Times, the Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and pay TV provider BSkyB in the UK and the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the US.

Rupert Murdoch addressed the same festival 20 years ago, and was also critical of the UK’s media policy.

… (01/09/2009) – Preston Questions Liberalisation Of News

… (14/09/2009) – BBC Against Charging For Its Online Content

The Public Has A Right To Know How Its Money Is Spent

(Telegraph) – IN THE WAKE of the scandal over MPs’ expenses, Sir Christopher Kelly and his Committee on Standards in Public Life were asked to come up with recommendations as to how the system could be improved. MPs’ own suggestions on that topic showed that a minority among them still do not understand what all the fuss was about. One MP even said that he and his colleagues should not be required to submit receipts at all, since doing so would turn MPs into ‘petty accounting clerks.’

That response shows a failure to understand that public money is exactly that: money belonging to the public. The most elementary requirement for public servants is that they should be able to justify how that money is spent. What was so shocking about the Telegraph‘s revelations over expenses was the extent to which MPs had either forgotten that requirement, or decided that it did not apply to them.

At the heart of the problem is the sense of entitlement that animates many politicians, the feeling that they are worth far more than they are paid, and that their compensation should be increased accordingly. Such conceit is not limited to Parliament: it is endemic across the public sector. Consider the comments last week by Jana Bennett, the BBC’s ‘director of vision,’ who defended its decision not to reveal what it pays its performers on the grounds that ‘it is an error to suggest that the public would actually be able to contribute to working out what we do about it.’

But knowing how our money is spent is not a favour which can be granted or withheld according to whether a bureaucrat thinks we would use the information properly. We have a basic right to total transparency in the way public employees spend our money on themselves, or on anyone or anything else.

The first step that MPs need to take in order to win back the public’s trust is to take responsibility for their own poor judgment in making claims which they believed they would never have to own up to in public. They must not – as some have done – try to blame the House of Commons’ fees office, or peer pressure from their colleagues, for nudging them into their outrageous claims.

As Sir Christopher’s committee will no doubt recognise, and most ordinary people will accept, many MPs certainly work long hours. They clearly need offices and secretarial staff; and those with constituencies outside London need accommodation while in the capital. But if they are to be trusted by the public with public money, MPs need to convince us that they realise that it is not theirs by a kind of modern equivalent of droit de seigneur. The submissions to Sir Christopher’s committee suggest that some of them have not yet accepted that principle.