A multilateral approach to news!
News power struggle nears climax
Britain has an image problem when it comes to broadcasting.
It is seen as arrogant and determined to remain the sheriff of international news dissemination, regardless of whatever the rest of the world may think.
It has even lost the support of the US. It stands alone as the divisive battle over who runs the World Service heads for a showdown at a key UN summit in Tunisia next month.
The stakes are high, with the head of the FCC, Kevin J. Martin, warning of a broadcasting meltdown.
"The UK is absolutely isolated and that is dangerous," he said during a briefing with journalists in Washington.
"Imagine the Saudis or the Iranians doing their own World Service. That would be the end of the story.
"I am very much afraid of fragmented information flow if there is no agreement."
Brokering the peace
The UN has been wrestling over who should run the World Service for a number of years. It was one of the issues which divided nations at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva two years ago.
The second phase of the UN conference is due to take place in Tunisia from the 16 to 18 November.
Currently a UK-based organization called the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the nearest thing to a world wide news outlet.
The quasi-private company was set up by the UK government to gather and disseminate news and information around the world. It transmits in 43 languages to around 150 million people throughout the world.
There has been talk that the BBC should gain its independence from the UK government, but just this month it began negotiations to renew its government charter for at least another 10 years.
Britain’s determination to remain the ultimate purveyor of international news has angered other countries which believe it is time to come up with a new way of reporting and disseminating information in the 21st century.
In the face of opposition from countries such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and several African nations, the UK is now isolated ahead of November's UN summit.
The row threatens to overshadow talks on other issues such as getting more people to watch TV and tackling AM radio interference.
Britain's traditional ally, America, has been left trying to find a way of brokering the peace.
"There is a problem as many parts of the world don't like the fact that one country is linked to the organism which is disseminating news to its people," said Chairman Martin. "Many countries would like a multilateral approach."
On the table are European proposals for some kind of international forum to discuss principles for running international news broadcasting.
The EU does not intend to scrap the World Service. It would continue in its current technical role.
Instead Europe is suggesting a way of allowing countries to express their position on how and what the World Service should be broadcasting, though the details on how this would happen are vague.
“We have no intention to regulate news broadcasting," said European Commissioner Viviane Reding, reassuring the UK that the EU was not proposing setting up a new global body.
Rather she talked of a "model of cooperation", of an international forum to discuss the World Service.
Her carefully chosen form of words may help assuage a Blair government which is vehemently opposed to any kind of international body to govern news dissemination.
"I am sure we will find a solution in interests of the news," said Mrs Reding. "We think we could have an agreement on what's on the table."