Why the BBC matters

The BBC provides an English-language perspective that is woefully missing from the American news sources.

Last night was a long night.  So this morning, I lounged in bed longer than usual, and watched TV.  Sundays are good days for contemplating the universe because much Sunday morning programming is either intensely religious – and thus can safely ignored – or of slightly deeper and richer quality than the usual fare.

I came across BBC World News, and saw a triplet of very interesting stories.

The first was about Dick Cheney’s attempts to hide some secret CIA plan from Congress, which was even the Top Story at the BBC main web site.  What the CIA plan was, is irrelevant.  The point is that I heard about this from BBC, not CNN.  CNN was still providing in-depth coverage of the death of Michael Jackson – apparently this is more important than an ex Vice-President conspiring with (admitedly domestic) spies to withhold operational information on intelligence activities outside the USA from the one US political body that can actually tell them to stop in the name of the people who elected said ex Vice-President.  Even though this is more proof of what a dick Cheney really is, there were only half as many articles listed at Google News on this story as there was for stories like the ongoing concerns around the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Judge, even though the latest Cheney fiasco is certainly an issue of far greater gravity.

The second story was about the potential end of Australia’s mining boom, and was filed by Nick Bryant.  This story covered the historical basics of Australian mining, the impact of recent mine closures, some of the political issues, and even the major environmental issues.  Considering coal is the principal export of the Australian mining industry (most of it destined for China), these are all quite sensitive issues.  Nothing is resolved in the story, but the questions are all laid out and interconnected.  It was an even-handed and very informative story of something very big happening in the world.

The third story was about the (hopefully) impending return of man to the Moon.  Simply titled “The Moon,” the segment treated humanity’s relationship with the Moon as a long and rather tempestuous love affair.  It covered the significance of the original landing just about 40 years ago, and how it was so completely accepted by the American people at the time.  And then how, over less than 10 years, the Americans lost interest in everything Lunar.  It was quite interesting to see what a total change was brought about by popular opinion alone.  Finally, though, the story ends on an up-beat, looking towards the future and the great plans for returning, and staying, on the Moon.  The one weakness of the story is the British narrator’s use of “we” in describing the activities of NASA; “they” would have been both more appropriate and accurate.

I saw all this over an hour and a half.  I can’t begin to recall the last time I saw this much informative journalism on television.

The point is: there are current events, and perspectives on them, that you cannot begin to imagine if you only watch the American media.  If you want to understand the world, you need to see a global picture.  You can’t get it just from CNN, or just from BBC.  You need to watch them all.

(Secretly, though, I really rather enjoy the BBC more than the others, even if they have their own biases.)

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