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Lebanese paper interviews BBC Arabic service head on new Arabic channel

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir website on 7 December

[Report by Muhammad Hasan from Cairo: "Al-Sukkari: BBC Arabic Television Will Be a New Launch for the Entire Service. Al-Safir Met the Man Entrusted With This Television on the Sidelines of the Arab Media Festival"]

On the sidelines of a workshop "Education by Remote" conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC] as part of the "Arab Media" festival with Egyptian-British participation, Al-Safir met with Husam al-Sukkari, director of the BBC's Arabic Service. Al-Sukkari has been entrusted with the task of establishing BBC Arabic television. Al-Safir asked him about the fate of the abovementioned channel, in addition to a number of other professional matters. Thus, Al-Sukkari considers that "what we will offer through the Arabic channel is a new and totally different understanding of the media." He added: "We will not only be launching a television station, but we will re-launch the BBC Arabic Service, which was established in 1938, by offering a comp! rehensive media understanding, irrespective of the means. The viewers, listeners, and readers are the basis of the service."

Al-Sukkari is keeping the details for later, it seems, opting to talk about the BBC's professional school. He says, in answer to a question on the extent of the BBC's actual neutrality, without enforcing one opinion over another, "the BBC is committed to more than that. When one side wants to express its viewpoint, which is contrary to my viewpoint, I will help him do so." He added: "We are a podium for dialogue. We have no position, not even regarding the cause of human rights, despite the fact that it is a cause of conflict. When I have an official from some state or other, I must ask him questions that put him in a tight spot and give him the chance to respond to the accusations being levelled against him. When I get human rights' groups telling me that a number of people have been arrested, I ask them where they got their information ! from. I must also ask them about the evidence supporting their claims. There is a need for the interviewer to confirm and examine the piece of information." In the course of his answer to a question on matters that are being raised regarding the BBC's failure to respond to what critics consider the focal Arab causes, he says: "We try and exert a great deal of effort. We may make mistakes just like other people make mistakes. Perfection is for God alone. However, the difference is that we apologize and review what was actually presented. We are not claiming that we are the only media school or that we monopolize or own the truth. We offer what we offer through our experience. If someone sees something beneficial to him in what we are offering, then this makes us happy." He adds: "We as a media school must not impose on others what we are committed to. Every station has a role and a cause it adheres to. Some stations believe that they have a cause and want to spread this cause. We do not have a problem with that as long as this is out in the ope! n. For example, I believe that it is my duty to defend human rights, or women, or Israel, or the causes of the Arab nation. The real problem lies in the station that declares it has no position and that it is neutral and objective, while at the same time having a political agenda. I say clearly that we, in the BBC, do not have a political agenda nor do we have political ideals. We have editorial standards that make all sides equal and treat all sides equally. They try to give every party a chance to express their viewpoint as they wish and leave judgment of these stances to the recipients of the news."

The workshop was interspersed with a presentation of a number of clips from BBC radio programmes. John Keagan, who attended the workshop for the British side, confirmed that English has become the language of communication among nations, and the youth use it through e-mail and chatting on the Internet, with the objective of learning, entertainment, relaxation, and job s! earching. He clarified that the objective behind the British programme is to learn English in a light and simple manner.

For her part, Inas Jawhar, head of the Egyptian station and the representative of the Egyptian side in the workshop, said that the youth are the only target of this programme, which the "Middle East Radio," "Youth and Sports," and the "Educational Channel" are retransmitting. The announcer in the programme, Egyptian Actor Karim Kujak, had taken part in presenting parts of the workshop, thus creating an atmosphere of fun among those present.

Source: Al-Safir website, Beirut, in Arabic 7 Dec 07



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