million words a day...
A MILLION words a day flood into the BBC newsroom at London's Bush
House from the world outside.
It is the newsroom's round-the-clock task to tap this torrent and
siphon it daily into 250 separate news programmes. At almost any
time of the day or night there are news programmes going out in
one or other of the 39 different language services that make up
BBC External Broadcasting. At certain times there are as many as
six at once. There can be no ebb in the tide of news stories. No
breaks as there are between editions of newspapers. No putting the
paper to bed and turning off the tape machines. A central writing
unit with 110 journalists working a 24 hour 3 shift system keeps
up a constant flow of bulletin stories.
The Bush House newsroom's main flagship of the airwaves is its
nine-minute bulletin of world news. The English language World Service
launches 17 of them world-wide every day. It also, puts out shorter
world news summaries, five-minute News About Britain bulletins,
round-ups of international sports news as well as five 15-minute
editions of Radio Newsreel. These blend on-the-spot despatches with
up-to-the-minute linking material.
IN MANY LANGUAGES
The 38 foreign language services of the BBC use varying numbers
of the nine-minute bulletins. These are the same general shape as
their English counterparts. But the opportunity of earmarking local
stories for the more localised audience is often taken up. Although
each Service does its own news translation, bulletins and summaries
are always prepared in English first by the newsroom.
The newsroom also retains direct editorial control. Within the
BBC External Services the editorial independence of the newsroom
enables it to provide a global audience of 70 million regular listeners
with a multilingual service of 'hard' international news as seen
from London (including major British items). In a world where three-quarters
of the governments dam-up the free flow of information, BBC news
bulletins attract listeners in their millions by their very objectivity.
Around the world there may suddenly be the confusion and violence
of earthquakes or revolution. But inside Bush House, journalists
are geared up at all times to deal instantly with the unexpected
and tell the world about it as quickly and as accurately as humanly
The BBC has more than 20 foreign correspondents to tackle the major
international incidents. Specialist correspondents conversant in
everything from economics to defence act as back-up usually in London.
For the detailed immediate view of the world, however, Bush House
relies on the four main international agencies - Associated Press,
Agence France Presse, Reuters and United Press International - for
source material. For domestic news there are the BBC's own home
reporters and the Press Association. And, of course, the BBC Monitoring
Service, listening to more than 100 radio stations around the world.
Throughout the non-stop process of news presentation the only standards
which are applied are professional standards. The editorial staff
may have their own personal opinions but in the newsroom they work
to news values alone, with the common purpose of providing as accurate
and fast a service of information as they can. The system allows
neither time nor opportunity for interference from any outside quarter.
The objectivity of bulletins wins listeners everywhere but particularly
in countries where news is controlled and censored; in places where
internal dissersion deprives people of local news sources and in
areas subjected to constant propaganda broadsides.