Friday, October 14, 2005

A multilateral approach to news!

Read this story from the BBC about the UN trying to take over the internet. And then let your imagination wander…

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.

Global forum

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."


Anonymous max said...

thegrauniad is also at it.
Just what we need, Zeropean and UM control over the net. Feh.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous avaroo said...

"Britain’s determination to remain the ultimate purveyor of international news"

Wherever does anyone in Britain get the idea that it is the "ultimate purveyor of international news". There is plenty of international news in the US and very little of it comes from the BBC. It may come as a shock to some Brits, but many Americans NEVER watch or listen to the BBC, ever. And that's quite true of people in many other countries as well.

I'm always shocked at how parochial the Brits can be. It's as if they think they still run half the world. Why do they think people all around the world are sitting around watching the BBC?

4:39 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


It's a parody. Read the link first, and then re-read the post.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous avaroo said...

Scott, in the BBC's case, it happens to be true though....

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Mumbo said...

Why should the United States of SelfInterest keep control anyway. Granted, the USSI has invented (with help) and spread its use, but like most patents that only have a set limit, that time has expired.

Other nations should have more of a say in the future development of the Net. If not, its time to develop alternatives.

7:46 AM  
Anonymous mumbo-jumbo said...

The US will (forget should) keep control because it has to date and will continue to run the Internet on a strictly commercial, non-political, and free basis. This is why it has succeeded.

As you correctly point out, it's possible to develop alternatives. In fact, alternatives have been developed in the past; the French Minitel system springs to mind. Why did these fail when the Internet succeeded? Could it be because they were run with political agendas?

Go ahead and develop a "progressive" alternative, one that's subject to the political control of every tinpot dictator in the UN. Just don't expect people to use it.

You gotta love it: one country develops something that is so successful the whole world starts using it. This success in and of itself is then used as the argument for why this thing should be taken away from this country and "given" to the "world" (in fact stolen and censored). Why don't you people stop taking stupid pills?

Oh, and regarding your snide little "self-interest" comment: in the first place, why is the US the only country not allowed to be self-interested? And secondly, how many other countries (such as France) that pay lip-service to serving others, have actually paid for the freedom of other nations with the blood of their sons? UK - check. Australia - check. Canada? Well, long ago. Anyone I missed?

11:34 AM  

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