BBC announces job losses at World Service

BBC announces job losses at World Service
Around 400 staff at BBC World Service will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme and move to digital platforms. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 September 2022

BBC announces job losses at World Service

BBC announces job losses at World Service
  • The BBC said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million as part of wider reductions of £500 million
  • Radio services in Arabic, Persian, Kyrgyz, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil and Urdu will stop, if the proposals are approved by staff and unions

LONDON: Nearly 400 staff at BBC World Service will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting program and move to digital platforms, the broadcaster announced on Thursday.
The BBC said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million.
In July it detailed plans to merge BBC World News television and its domestic UK equivalent into a single channel to launch in April next year.
BBC World Service currently operates in 40 languages around the world with a weekly audience of some 364 million people.
But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which along with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to “digital-first” made financial sense.
“Today’s proposals entail a net total of around 382 post closures,” it said in an online statement.
Eleven language services — Azerbaijani, Brasil, Marathi, Mundo, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese — are already digital only.
Under the restructuring plans they will be joined by seven more: Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu and Yoruba.
Radio services in Arabic, Persian, Kyrgyz, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil and Urdu will stop, if the proposals are approved by staff and unions.
No language services will close, the broadcaster insisted, although some production will move out of London.
The Thai service will move to Bangkok, the Korean service to Seoul and the Bangla service to Dhaka.
The “Focus on Africa” television bulletin will be broadcast from Nairobi, it added.
BBC World Service director Liliane Landor said there was a “compelling case” for expanding digital services, as audiences had more than doubled since 2018.
“The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing,” she added.
BBC World Service is funded out of the UK license fee — currently £159 for a color TV and payable by every household with a television set.
The BBC has faced increasing claims from right-wingers since the UK’s divisive Brexit referendum in 2016 of political bias, and pushing a “woke,” London-centric liberal agenda.
But it has faced similar accusations of political bias in favor of the right from the left.
The government announced a freeze on the license fee earlier this year, in what was seen as a brazen attack on a cherished British institution.
But ministers claimed the funding model needed to be revised because of technological changes, including the uptake of streaming services.
Rival commercial broadcasters have long complained that the guaranteed funding is unfair.


Pakistani journalist’s killing in Kenya a pre-meditated murder – report

Pakistani journalist’s killing in Kenya a pre-meditated murder – report
Updated 17 min 47 sec ago

Pakistani journalist’s killing in Kenya a pre-meditated murder – report

Pakistani journalist’s killing in Kenya a pre-meditated murder – report
  • TV journalist Arshad Sharif earlier fled Pakistan citing threats to his life
  • Team of Pakistani probers believe it was a case of pre-meditated murder
ISLAMABAD: A team set up by the Pakistani government to probe the killing of a well-known Pakistani journalist in Nairobi said it found several contradictions in the version given by Kenyan authorities, and believes it was a case of pre-meditated murder.
TV journalist Arshad Sharif, who had fled Pakistan citing threats to his life, was shot dead in Nairobi in October. Kenyan officials said it was a case of mistaken identity and police hunting car thieves opened fire on his vehicle as it drove through a roadblock without stopping.
A two-member fact-finding team from Pakistan that traveled to Kenya and conducted a number of interviews, examined and reconstructed the crime scene and examined the deceased’s phones and computers, said in a 600-page report that Sharif’s killing was a pre-planned murder.
“Both the members of the (fact-finding team) have a considered understanding that it is a case of planned targeted assassination with transnational characters rather than a case of mistaken identity,” said the report, copies of which were submitted to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
“It is more probable that the firing was done, after taking proper aim, at a stationary vehicle,” it said.
Kenyan authorities declined comment on the specifics of the report.
“The investigation into the matter is still ongoing, so there is not much I can tell,” said Resila Onyango, spokesperson for the Kenya National Police Service.
A multi-agency team is conducting the investigation, he said, adding that the team will apprise authorities when they are done with the probe.
The chairperson of the Kenyan police watchdog Independent Police Oversight Authority, Anne Makori, also said investigations were still ongoing.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had said before the release of the report that Sharif’s body had bruises and torture marks, suggested it was a targeted killing.
The fact-finding team highlighted one wound in particular on Sharif’s back, saying it appeared to have been inflicted from relatively close range.
The report noted there was no corresponding penetration mark of a bullet on the seat on which Sharif was sitting when the shooting purportedly took place, calling it a “ballistic impossibility.”
“The injury had to have been caused either before the journalist got into the vehicle, or the shot was fired from a relatively close range, possibly from inside the vehicle, and almost certainly not a moving vehicle,” the report said.
Sharif had fled from Pakistan citing threats to his life after the government registered several treason cases against him.
One of the treason cases stemmed from reporting Sharif did that led to an accusation he had spread a call from an official in a previous government, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, for members of the armed forces to mutiny.
Both Sharif and the official in the previous government denied inciting mutiny.
Former prime minister Khan said Sharif had been murdered for his journalistic work. He and his successor Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, not related to the journalist, had called for a judicial investigation.
The fact-finding team’s report also pointed out apparent contradictions in the autopsy reports in Kenya and Pakistan.
The post-mortem report in Pakistan identified 12 injuries on Sharif’s body whereas the Kenyan report identified just two injuries pertaining to gunshot wounds.
The fact-finding team report said doctors believed the injures may be the result of torture or a struggle, but it could not be established until verified by the doctor who conducted the post mortem in Kenya.

Australian court dismisses suit against Google over personal data use

Australian court dismisses suit against Google over personal data use
Updated 09 December 2022

Australian court dismisses suit against Google over personal data use

Australian court dismisses suit against Google over personal data use
  • Proceedings were initiated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission in July 2020
  • ‘The court also noted that Google did not reduce account holders’ rights under the privacy policy’

Australia’s competition regulator said on Friday its lawsuit against Alphabet Inc’s Google that alleged consumers were misled about expanded use of personal data for targeted advertising had been dismissed by a court.
The proceedings, initiated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission in July 2020, alleged Google did not explicitly take consent from users about a change made in 2016 that combined personal information in Google accounts with activity on non-Google sites that use its technology to display advertisements.
The Federal Court, however, found that the notification which allowed users to accept policy changes was not misleading since Google “only implemented the steps with their (users’) informed consent,” the regulator said.
“The court also noted that Google did not reduce account holders’ rights under the privacy policy.”
Google Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Hia celebrates 30 years of inspiring Arab women with revamp

Hia celebrates 30 years of inspiring Arab women with revamp
Updated 08 December 2022

Hia celebrates 30 years of inspiring Arab women with revamp

Hia celebrates 30 years of inspiring Arab women with revamp
  • The Arabic magazine said the rebranding is the latest milestone for a publication that has championed the role of women and helped to redefine luxury lifestyle in the region
  • The redesign coincides with the second Hia Hub, described as the largest fashion and style conference in the Middle East, which began in Riyadh on Dec. 8 and continues until Dec. 10

LONDON: Hia, the leading Arabic luxury lifestyle magazine, is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a brand redesign, a new website, enhanced content and an expansion onto new platforms.

It said the rebranding represents the latest milestone for a publication that has helped to redefine luxury lifestyle and influence the identity of women in the region and beyond.

“For three decades, the magazine has been integral to shaping women’s lifestyles across our region,” said Mai Badr, Hia’s editor-in-chief.

“The new brand has been informed by our readers and will continue to capture audiences across the region. Our new brand identity will continue to lead the way for the pioneering Hia woman of today and tomorrow.”

The new branding was unveiled on Wednesday across Hia’s social media channels and website. The first issue of the revamped print edition will be on sale from Thursday.

Alongside its new website, the magazine — which is owned by the Saudi Research and Media Group, the publisher of Arab News — announced the launch of a podcast and video series exploring premium fashion, beauty, culture and the lifestyles that inspire audiences and celebrate women from the region.

Hia’s core content, which is based around high-end fashion, beauty, culture, health, careers and self-empowerment, will be expanded to include more long-form reads, aspirational stories and insightful interviews with the aim of conveying the diversity and splendor of the Middle East.

“Hia is the leading Arabic luxury lifestyle magazine, championing Arab women for over 30 years,” said Jomana Al-Rashed, the CEO of SRMG. “Today’s brand evolution is designed to reflect the modern Middle Eastern women (who are) Hia’s readers: Discerning women with a sophisticated taste in fashion, beauty and culture.”

Through its groundbreaking interviews with prominent and influential Arab and international dignitaries and celebrities — such as Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Saudi ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar, and designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana — Hia has been seen as a platform for championing progress and paving the way for the empowerment of Arab women.

Its revamp coincides with the second Hia Hub, described as the largest fashion and style conference in the Middle East, which began in Riyadh on on Dec. 8 and continues until Dec. 10.

Building on the success of last year’s inaugural event, it includes exhibitions, panel discussions featuring industry leaders, workshops, and masterclasses with experts such as renowned fashion designer Zac Posen, visionary fashion stylist Law Roach, and beauty and makeup artist Mary Phillips.


Disney+ streaming service launches with major advertisers

Disney+ streaming service launches with major advertisers
Updated 08 December 2022

Disney+ streaming service launches with major advertisers

Disney+ streaming service launches with major advertisers
  • The $7.99-a-month with ads version launches amid video streaming industry slowdown

LONDON: The ad-supported version of the Disney+ service launched Thursday, attracting major advertisers from different sectors, bringing in new revenue as Walt Disney Co. strives to push its streaming business into profitability.
Disney Advertising President Rita Ferro said more than 100 brands, from Mattel Inc. to Marriott Hotels & Resorts, are participating in the launch, which Disney has been promoting to marketers and ad buyers since its May.
The company is under pressure to turn a profit on its streaming business, which posted a $1.5 billon loss in the company’s most recent quarter. Investor unhappiness about deepening losses hammered the company’s stock and helped set the stage for the ouster last month of Chief Executive Bob Chapek, and return of longtime Disney leader, Bob Iger.
Advertising introduces a second source of revenue for Disney+, to supplement subscription fees. The company’s other streaming services, Hulu and ESPN+, already have commercials.
A $3-a-month price increase also took effect Dec. 8, bringing the price for the ad-free version of Disney+ to $10.99. Disney+ with ads costs $7.99. Researcher Kantar projects that one out of four Disney+ subscribers could switch to the less-expensive version of the service with advertising.
Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy told investors the company does not expect the advertising-supported tier to have a “meaningful impact” until later in its 2023 fiscal year.
As subscriber growth slows in North America, Netflix similarly introduced commercials to bolster revenue and support its estimated $17 billion annual content spend. Other streaming services, such as HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock, also offer ad-supported versions of their streaming services, emulating the business model that has long supported the television business.
Ferro told Reuters that Disney+ will carry four minutes of advertising time per hour, in 15 and 30 second spots, and limit the number of times the same ad will appear over the course of a day or week.
“A brand like Starbucks will have no more than one commercial an hour, no more than two a day,” she said. “We’ve asked advertisers for multiple versions of creative. Even if they air two a day, you won’t see the same ad.”
Disney plans to introduce features that will allow advertisers to target consumers by region, gender and age.


Biden admin tells Supreme Court law protecting social media companies has limits

Biden admin tells Supreme Court law protecting social media companies has limits
Updated 08 December 2022

Biden admin tells Supreme Court law protecting social media companies has limits

Biden admin tells Supreme Court law protecting social media companies has limits
  • Social media companies should be held responsible for user content, President argues

LONDON: The Biden administration argued to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday that social media giants like Google could in some instances have responsibility for user content, adopting a stance that could potentially undermine a federal law shielding companies from liability.
Lawyers for the US Department of Justice made their argument in the high profile lawsuit filed by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American citizen killed in 2015 when Islamist militants opened fire on the Paris bistro where she was eating.
The family argued that Google was in part liable for Gonzalez’ death because YouTube, which is owned by the tech giant, essentially recommended videos by the Daesh group to some users through its algorithms. Google and YouTube are part of Alphabet Inc.
The case reached the Supreme Court after the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Google, saying they were protected from such claims because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Section 230 holds that social media companies cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by other users.
The law has been sharply criticized across the political spectrum. Democrats claim it gives social media companies a pass for spreading hate speech and misinformation.
Republicans say it allows censorship of voices on the right and other politically unpopular opinions, pointing to decisions by Facebook and Twitter to ban dissemination of a New York Post article about the son of then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s adult son, Hunter, in October 2020.
The Biden administration, in its filing to the Supreme Court, did not argue that Google should be held liable in the Gonzalez case and voiced strong support for most of Section 230’s protections of social media companies.
But the DOJ lawyers said that algorithms used by YouTube and other providers should be subject to a different kind of scrutiny. They called for the Supreme Court to return the case to the 9th Circuit for further review.
Attorneys for Google could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.