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Iran’s user generation
Former head of BBC Persian Rob Beynon says that social networks may have been pivotal in the Iranian elections, but they don’t mean news is dead.
February 19, 2010 11:12 by Austyn Allison
How do you determine the accuracy of user-generated content?
You [as a viewer] don’t know the accuracy, that’s the problem. You don’t know whether that’s right or that’s wrong, or what the context of that is, versus that. The broadcaster hopefully will be able to do that.
So will journalism stop being about breaking stories and start being about analyzing news?
I think journalists will always break stories. For spot news, if you can get the cameraman there you should, because he is a trained professional. It’s like when there’s an accident. The paramedic is the first line of defense and then you send the consultant; if the consultant happens to be in the neighborhood, good, but if he’s in the hospital, you bring the victim to him.
How does BBC Persian measure up to the competition?
There are only two international channels that broadcast in Farsi into Iran that do any sort of news coverage. One is BBC Persian, and the other is Voice of America. Voice of America does a perfectly good job, but it is directly funded by the State Department in the US, while the BBC has an arm’s-length relationship with the UK’s Foreign Office. So, effectively, the Foreign Office outsources all the content and journalism to the BBC. This is the same as any other domestic BBC journalism, or BBC World, or anything else.
BBC Persian is hugely watched in Iran. It’s impossible to tell what the audience figures are, but it’s hugely watched. It’s pivotal in events, and we’ll see how events move in the next six to 12 months. I think it will continue to be pivotal. While the activities immediately after the elections were going on, it was providing the only channel for people inside Iran to see what was happening on their streets.
What changed once the elections were over?
We increased the coverage from eight hours a day to double that in a space of a week, and then went back as things returned to a situation where there was no activity going on. To have sustained that after a certain time would have implied the wrong thing. Otherwise, you’re just fanning it out and exploiting something.