What's so great about B.B.C. radio news?

I have long been given the impression that B.B.C.'s world radio news service is a quality news operation, better even than N.P.R. I’m wondering why people think so.

Recently, one of my local public radio stations began broadcasting the “B.B.C. Newshour” and “World Briefing” in the mornings and I have been astonished at the number of times I have heard half-assed news reporting in the style of television news – glib blabbering in the line of “I’m on the scene right now and I have absolutely no information, but let me tell you X person just must be thinking Y” – yeah, well how do you know that?

Does anyone else have opinions on this subject?

I listen to the BBC World Service news every now and again on the radio. My impression is that it’s generally pretty professional, with a good “neutral” tone i.e. reporting facts without too many British-centric interpretations. NPR, which I also occasionally listen to, sounds very US-centric to me.

It’s worth pointing out that the World Service is completely separate from the main organisation of the BBC.

The main BBC news organisation has a generally good reputation…it’s fairly well-resourced, has fantastic expertise available (for example, they were the first today to translate the claims of responsibility for the London bombs), and has a very strong ethic of impartiality. On the other hand, it’s capable of some lapses, as is any organisation.

How much of this relates to the World Service, I don’t know. However, don’t be limited…Radio 4 is the domestic flagship for their serious brodcasts. Try 7-9am UK time for a taster (RealPlayer streams). And with the World Service, if you can get to listen to the documentaries, in-depth reports, etc., you’ll get a far better impression than what you’ve had so far.

Apologies if I mentioned this previously, but the best thing about BBC World Service is the occasional cute-sounding female reporters. I love the way they say “body” and “law” (with the extra r’s, it comes out as “lawrrr”).

The Scottish one doesn’t make it, though.

I can’t say that I’ve noticed any particular bias in the news reported. What bothers me is the amount of junk “news” I hear. A reporter standing around in a crowd of people waiting for the Olympic announcement, a reporter standing around a bombed Underground station, a reporter standing around somewhere near the Tour de France … in each of these cases, the reporter had no actual information to convey and engaged in a bunch of presumptuous speculation regarding the feelings or expectations of an undefined group of people.

I have also noticed a tendency towards overly-casual speech patterns. One reporter, each time she began responding to a question from the news anchor (I forget what the story was about) would begin her sentences with an audible exhalation that amounted to a very loud grunt. It was very weird. I think she was trying to convey a feeling of excitement or something, but it sounded like she was lifting weights.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard a newsreader called Emma Joseph who has what I think is a Caribbean accent. She has a habit of emphasizing the last syllable of each word – “The presiDENT arrived back in AmeriCA after a visit to the UniTED KingDOM.” It’s very jarring. It has the effect of repeated blows to the face and head. I just can’t listen to it!

Due to endless budget cuts more and more of that service is based on recycled BBC TV and radio. News reports often are a TV news item without the pictures.

I enjoy the BBC because thier interviewers aren’t afraid to call BS when they hear it.

In the US, news anchors and talk show hosts routinely accept non-answers to questions.

BBC types aren’t afraid to say, “yes, but you haven’t actually answered my question, have you?”

They also bring up obvious counter-arguments. I think it keeps guests, commentors, and opiners more honest, or at least lighter on thier feet.

All of this is generalization, of course, but after years of listening that’s my impression.

The half-hour programs I sometimes hear are too heavy on cricket and league football scores for my taste, but I know that’s important for some ex-pats.

Well, few sports are followed as widely as football…and cricket’s a major sport for the whole of south Asia, covering over a billion people.