Ranjona Banerji: Does the BBC think Indians aren’t interested in Brexit?

24 Jun,2016

By Ranjona Banerji


I was going to start this with a rant against the BBC World Service and with other foreign news channels which broadcast to India. All of Thursday, as the world wanted to know about Britain’s vote on staying or leaving European Union, international news channels were quite on their own usual pet news subjects. This appears to be part of a misconception on the part of editors or managers that the countries which these channels broadcast to are not interested in what is happening in the countries they originate from.


That is why, I imagine, the extraordinary Democratic Party “sit in” over control was not seen as top news by CNN International yesterday. And the German channel DW was more concerned with some football league as news of a gun attack in Germany was breaking across other news channels.


The BBC World Service is perhaps the best at this misconception. From an ex-colonial point of view (mine), it almost appears like “white-splaining” – that is, I the BBC, know better than you (the brownie) want to know about. That is why, I assume, anything to do with British royalty gets maximum and endless play on the BBC World Service. The BBC weather service is best at this – people dying all over India from drought and lack of rainfall and the meteorologists ruing areas where there are chances of rain while glorying in all that killer sunshine. I am also happy to discover that Astana has the maximum number of BBC World Service weather forecast viewers.


But while from Thursday to Friday morning India time, CNN International was ahead of the BBC on the “Brexit” vote, luckily by 9 am India time, the BBC woke up to the Brexit results and provided blanket coverage, presumably from the BBC newsroom itself and not the World Service.


And when they get it right, they do it quite well: Sober discussions with people being allowed to have their say without hysterical interruptions – not to mention a choice of intelligent and articulate guests. Even better, politicians with opposing viewpoints sat next to each other without screaming their heads off, without bringing everything down to an uncivilised cacophonic civilisational crisis.


A quick look at international news channels at 10.30 am on Friday saw every channel (CNN, BBC, DW, RT, TV5Monde Asie, France 24, ChannelNewsAsia, Al-Jazeera and Australia Plus focusing on the UK referendum.


All Indian news channels were on the top news except for the delightful News 9, which had local Karnataka News. Surprisingly, even business channels which normally operate in a separate galaxy from all other news channels had the UK referendum as top news. Yes, I know I know, markets have a role to play here.


One can only hope that the results themselves – UK to leave the European Union – will be debated through the day. It is highly likely that we will go back to Syria and Astana.




The film star Salman Khan is known for his popular movies and loyal fans but also for his controversial behaviour and for several court cases against him for manslaughter and killing endangered animals. His latest comment that a tough shooting schedule which left him feeling like a “raped woman” has created enormous outrage on social media and in the mainstream media.


What has saved Khan every time is his clout within the industry and in larger circles of influence, not least in the media. Thus, no sooner did his unsalutary remark become public than his apologists within the media swung into action. That his remark was unsalutary is undoubtedly my opinion and we can debate that. But questions need to be asked about those in the glamour media who cannot distinguish between journalism and fandom.


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