Sunday, December 13, 2009

Singapore has the BBC singing like a canary

If you are not convinced of the extent to which the Singapore government has managed to cow the international media, then check out this piece on Singapore for the BBC's usually-excellent From Our Own Correspondent.

In the story, the BBC's intrepid reporter goes to a bird market in Singapore and talks to an old man about his bird and how his wife would rather he got rid of the creature. And, erm, that's it. Seriously.

Unless I'm missing something, this isn't some clever allegory about the battle for individual liberty in Singapore or some absurdist satire of authoritarian government. It's just a description of a journalist going to a bird market and talking to one person.

There's no politics, no societal implications, no controversy. In short, there's no story - it's pure fluff and, in my opinion, an utter waste of UK taxpayer-funded airwaves and server space.

If the BBC's Beijing, Bangkok or Dubai correspondent offered a similar story, I suspect they'd be told to where to get off.

There are so many interesting and quirky but serious stories in Singapore that the BBC could cover. Why go with this?

Looking back through the BBC's archive of Singapore stories, it seems there's little appetite at the organisation - which has a large commercial HQ in Singapore as well as its Asian business bureau - to cover more controversial stories out of the Lion City. I wonder why.


  1. Any suggestion of under the table inducement is absurd. Singapore is squeeky clean and any hint of any dirty play will be seen as unpatriotic. Better be careful or you will be visited in the middle of the night.

  2. I wonder if the BBC received some nice financial incentives from the Economic Development Board when it established the HQ for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, in Singapore.

    I don't want to imply that it did. I genuinely don't know. If you do, drop me an email in confidence as I'd love to find out.