So, I’m in Algeria working for BBC Media Action. As my French and Arabic are pretty ropey, I did what every self-respecting ex-pat should do and clocked 20 minutes of our finest export. Then I took off the One Direction album – and tuned into the World Service.

Listened In is 2ZY’s weekly air-check blog. Every week we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

WHO Nomia Iqbal (and Paul Henley)

WHAT BBC World Service Newshour

WHEN Tuesday 26 February




Bulletin: beautifully written and read. Although if we’re quibbling, the Luxor balloon ‘plunging’ felt a little tabloid. Stories on the Italian Election, the Luxor crash, a dangerous dye in school uniforms in Shanghai, evidence of rape and torture of Tamils in Sri Lanka , Pope Benedict’s new title, and how water-buffalo, donkey and goat have been found horse-meat style in South African beef.

“You’re listening to news hour, I’m Nomia Iqbal.” Perfect tone and pace into a special report.


Special coverage from Russia, looking at background of new laws banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality.’ It all sounds a bit 1988

There followed a slightly rambling set-up chat from reporter Paul Henley. Which was a shame as the package it introduced was an amazing bit of work. It painted the picture of a boy in a provincial school. The boy’s adopted father is a man in his forties who paid a woman £16k to fake a marriage, and adopt the boy. They then split up and the man moved to this isolated community to bring up the boy with his male partner, a man the boy knows only as his uncle. They plan to tell him the whole truth when he’s 15. The boy had been orphaned after his alcoholic mum was murdered. For two men who could lose their child if discovered, this was brave, eye-opening and intimate radio.

And listening to that was Vitaly Milanov. He’s the architect of the new anti-gay law and the man who promised to attend a (Queen of all the Gays) Madonna gig in St Petersburg to “control its moral content.”

Paul conducts a calm and balanced interview with this man, who’s finest comments included, “Different adults are trying to attract minors, saying the immoral way was the right way of living,” and “Homosexuals destroy society and do not inherit the kingdom of God.”

We hear audio of another provincial leader who says “homosexuality can be spread through parades. These people do not work. They live off strange income through art shows.”

Also with Paul is the perfectly reasonable voice of a Russian/American Lesbian journalist who lives in Moscow with her girlfriend and 3 children. There is a moderate and thoughtful discussion about her lifestyle, and no direct confrontation between both live guests. It ends as Molanov (now sounding seriously unhinged to this listener) suggests that “our beloved Britain is turning into Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Nomia is back. She 2 ways Paul to ask him whether Milanov’s views are representative. He replies that Russia is becoming more polarised on this issue. The sequence ends with a final piece of audio with someone from the All Russia People’s Union, asked if he knew any gay people. “No, I don’t have damaging connections. In our circle we say if you shake hands with a homosexual you become one,” Paul pays off with the answer,

“I defy you to come up with a non-partisan journalistic reaction to that.”


Nomia resets, You’re listening to Newshour and recaps the Italy story with a clip and some copy on the Luxor ballon.

Then does something that to me is the radio equivalent of nails down a blackboard. PLEASE can someone invent a radio mouse that both doesn’t click, and who’s click wheel doesn’t make that rumbling sound when being rolled?


Mali: Discovery of Al Queda papers in Mali. Two way with French correspondent.


The World Service is one of our best kept secrets, at least domestically. It rises above the petty UK squabbles and preoccupations, and presents you with a wider perspective on the planet. The simplicity of the writing and the plainness of the delivery for an international audience are a welcome change from our frenetic home services.

Here was a well-ordered bulletin followed by a typically World Service treatment. The discussions here tend to have more light than heat. Less confrontational swagger and more attempt to understand each side’s view.

The package showed tenacious research and the live guests added to the piece rather than merely repeating the arguments. The overlong introduction from both Nomia and Paul was the only low point. So often we bury our best audio under the weight of some crippling pre-amble. Put the best stuff up front, always, and keep a listener longer.

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