Ian Burrell: News the North Koreans can trust
Could a BBC Korea Service work?
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Sunday 09 March 2014
I have been leaked a confidential report for the BBC written by the investigative journalist John Sweeney about North Korea, the state he memorably infiltrated after posing as an academic for a controversial Panorama film last year.
The report is into the viability of a BBC Korea Service, serving both the north and south of the peninsula. The report – which describes North Korea as “Macbeth armed with nuclear weapons” – is a passionate call for such a network. Sweeney – who became a YouTube star with his screaming outburst at Scientologists in another Panorama programme – suggests that the rise in price of short-wave radios in North Korean “grasshopper” markets from £2 to £9 shows a growing audience for foreign broadcasts. Signal jamming – previously seen as an obstacle to a BBC service – is breaking down with the increased frequency of power cuts.
He claims the Foreign Office is worried that a BBC Korea could jeopardise its presence in Pyongyang. Sweeney says Western diplomats are “not allowed to meet ministers” and the closure of the British embassy would be “no great loss”. “But one should not underestimate the power of bureaucratic entropy in an organisation like the FCO to hinder a good idea.”
Voice of America already provides a service but North Koreans are “historically distrustful of American propaganda” and prize “British English”, says Sweeney. His 11-page report, commissioned by Ceri Thomas, the BBC’s head of news programmes, suggests funding BBC Korea through a commercial “Learn to Speak English” soap, which would be “part Archers, part Downton Abbey”.
He proposes a script about two twins who get separated in 1945, with one fathering a football star who plays for North Korea in England in the 1966 World Cup and the other becoming an electronics billionaire in the South.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, recently said it was “not currently possible for the World Service to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service” in Korea. But last week in Parliament, the FCO minister Hugo Swire told MPs: “We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response.”
The BBC and FCO are apparently open to the idea of selling TV shows such as Teletubbies or Mr Bean to Kim Jong-un’s regime. Sweeney’s report might help ensure we can offer something more serious.
Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
'Gene drive': Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms which could spread in the wild and cause environmental disasters
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 1 Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
- 2 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 3 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 4 Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale divorce: One of music industry’s most enduring couples announce split after 12 years of marriage
- 5 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£20 - £30k DOE + OTE + BENEFITS: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...
£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...
Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...