tv The Media Show BBC News February 5, 2023 5:30pm-6:00pm GMT
this is bbc news, the headlines iranian state television says the country's supreme leader has pardoned thousands of prisoners, including many who took part in recent anti—government demonstrations. some human rights groups believe twenty thousand people have been detained over the protests since mid—september. new cctv pictures of missing lancashire woman nicola bulley have been shared by one of her friends. the images show the 45—year—old in the hours before she went missing whilst walking next to the river wyre, nine days ago. the united states is trying to find the wreckage of a chinese surveillance balloon, which it shot down over the atlantic on saturday. beijing has accused the us of an over—reaction. the former president of pakistan, pervez musharraf,
has died in hospital at the age of seventy nine. you're watching bbc news. now it's time for the media show. a warning — this programme contains flashing images. hello, and welcome to this week's edition of the media show. now in a minute, we're going to talk about spotify. it's the world's most popular music streaming platform. it spent close to $1 billion on podcasting, too, but there are all sorts of different developments coming out of spotify at the moment. and its ceo has said that perhaps they got carried away with new investments. we'll try and unpack what's going on and work out what that means for making money off music streaming and off podcasts, too. first of all, though, we're going to talk about the fallout from a new bbc documentary about india's prime
minister, narendra modi. it's on iplayer at the moment, and it explores tensions between mr modi and india's muslim minority. it also specifically looks at claims around his role in the 2002 gujarat riots, in which over 1,000 people died. now, the programme wasn't broadcast in india but it's caused a furore there. first of all, let's watch a short clip of the documentary from close to the beginning of the first episode. he is the leader of the world's biggest democracy. he came to power promising a new age of prosperity. but his rule has been marred by religious turmoil. the impact of this documentary has been amplified in india
by social media and the indian government's acted on this. an adviser to the government has called the programme "hostile "propaganda and anti—india garbage." he also says the government ordered twitter to block tweets linking to clips of the film, and that youtube has been instructed to block uploads of it. and so if this is a documentary about the prime minister, the fallout from it is also about media and press freedom in india, too. let's begin with rishi iyengar, staff writer at foreign policy magazine, who's live with us from washington, dc. rishi, thanks forjoining us on the media show. what would be the indian government's justification for asking twitter and youtube to remove these clips? thanks for having me. so the indian government, the law that the adviser cited when he spoke about blocking this documentary and said that twitter and youtube had complied, is an update to india's it rules
or information technology rules, that was first floated in 2021. and what he cited was emergency powers that give the government the ability to order the take—down of anything that threatens the sovereignty, national security of india or friendly relations with foreign countries. that's something that critics have said is kind of an over—broad definition and set of parameters that may allow the government to go after and take down online content it doesn't like. and does the government use this law frequently on media content that perhaps it doesn't approve of? increasingly so, yes. this is not the first time that the modi government has clashed with twitter, in particular, and with social media companies more broadly.
there have been instances of police raids on twitter�*s headquarters in the past. and twitter has actually filed a lawsuit last year against the indian government, calling these measures over—broad and saying that it impinges on the fundamental rights of twitter users in india. that lawsuit is still ongoing, of... i guess, the context of this is that modi has also very effectively used social media to come to power and to stay in power. he is the most—followed active world leader on twitter now with over 86 million followers. but modi and his government are also increasingly intent on controlling the narrative, both externally and internally, but especially internally.
and, so, given social media's reach and twitter�*s small size but outsized influence in the country, it has frequently become a target, and social media companies have frequently become a target of this government. well, rishi, you're talking about twitter. twitter has confirmed to the bbc that it has blocked 50 tweets based on a request by india's ministry of information and broadcasting. a youtube spokesperson said the video had been blocked from appearing by the bbc, due to a copyright claim, and a bbc spokesperson says, "as is standard practice, "we follow procedure to have illegal uploads of any bbc content removed." that doesn't necessarily, though, contradict that statement from a government adviser that the government has also requested certain clips are removed from youtube. rishi, you're staying with us. let's bring in supriya sharma, editor of the indian news website scroll and ramanjit singh chima, asia policy director at the digital rights organisation access now. raman, in a previousjob
you worked for google in delhi as their government affairs manager. i wonder what it was like interacting with the government. thanks, ros. i'd say that, what one has to keep in mind, if you're working for a tech or a social media platform in india, that it's a very active job involving quite a few requests and tensions around content removal, as well as user data. and if you see the public disclosures from tech platforms, this is a matter of public record. india tops many of those lists. and, in fact, what's been most concerning is, ever since i moved out of working for a private company and work for a civil society organisation, the numbers have increased massively. india now is number one and number two in many of the transparency reports published by facebook and meta, by google, by twitter. and what you've seen since then, in fact, is a more concerning sort of doubling—down on intimidation and pressure. when i was there, there were moves to potentially amend regulations. some of these blocking rules were passed.
but the government acknowledged, the then government acknowledged there were problems with them and the indian supreme court even temporarily protected some of these rules from legal challenge, saying that we would trust that the government will let people know when they're blocked and people can approach indian courts to challenge these orders. and today you have a federal government which is issuing nearly 5,000 plus accounts or more to be blocked every year. this is not data out of thin air. the social freedom law centre india filed right to information requests in india, where they discovered from 2015 to 2022, over 55,000 examples of content had been blocked by a mix of executive, branch and court orders. and today you have the indian federal government regularly issuing blocking ofjournalistic sources, of activists or elected lawmakers, and they're doing it saying it's secret. so if today i want to challenge it, the government could tell me, we won't give you a copy of the order. and that's quite bogus. raman, let's get into the detail here of how this works, because india's foreign ministry has called this documentary a propaganda piece designed to push
a particularly discredited narrative. we know, because rishi has been explaining it to us, that the law that's been used to justify certain clips being removed is a law that looks at, and i quote, "anything that threatens india's sovereignty and relations "with foreign countries. " who makes a judgment over whether that is correct, whether the government has judged this issue correctly? can itjust take it on its own, or can the courts intervene to correct the government? the legal reality is that the government is not supposed to interpret it on its own. the government is supposed to follow both what the courts have said, the limitations that indian courts have issued. remember, india has protected fundamental rights in its constitution. and what that means is that when the government says friendly relations with foreign states, that's subject to a court saying later, "was that necessary? was it proportionate? "was that a genuine reason?" but the way the government currently does it today, is that it's purely the civil service, it's the executive branch, it's purely the political executive.
it is civil servants who meet, who decide that something has to be blocked on a request from other folks in government. and when they issue these orders, these are not shared with an independent oversight mechanism, no role for parliamentarians, no role for the courts. and the review mechanism by which you can challenge or oversee this is another round of civil servants, all of whom are appointed by, under the pleasure of the prime minister. so what that means, you can challenge it if you go to court, but you have to be very lucky or have a very good set of lawyers. and even then you most probably may lose or you will wait for years. so evidently you've got concerns about how all of this works. supriya, let's bring you in, you're editor of the indian news website, scroll. have you been surprised at the scale of the reaction to this bbc documentary about the prime minister? thanks, ros. no, not really. the 2002 gujarat riots are a sensitive subject for the narendra modi government. in the run—up to the 2014 national elections, when modi first contested for the prime minister's office, the ruling party, the bjp,
its image managers worked assiduously to get rid of the shadow of gujarat riots, revamping his image from a chief minister who allowed anti—muslim violence to go unchecked, to a chief minister who brought development to his state and promised to bring that for the rest of the country. and that messaging worked. the bjp won that election. modi became the prime minister. and since then, what we've seen is that large sections of the mainstream media in india have been reluctant to question the bjp's narrative. several media outlets uncritically amplify the establishment narrative to a point where the public memory of the 2002 gujarat riots has faded, worse, even got distorted in the process. and then comes this bbc documentary which reminds everyone of what happened. and it's now being viewed
by a generation of indians born after 2002, who weren't familiar with the events that took place then and are now viewing this documentary in screenings on campuses, screenings that administrators are clamping down against. in some places, we have seen that college administrators went to the extent of cutting off power and internet. in delhi, university students have been detained. in the state of rajasthan, students have been suspended for watching the documentary. so actually this ban has only ended up fanning interest in the documentary. and the fact that it comes from the bbc, which is well—regarded, it's seen as a credible source, it's made it harder for the government to discredit it. and before i ask you a couple more questions, supriya, i was mentioning the criticism from the indian foreign ministry about this documentary. the bbc�*s reply to that criticism has been that the documentary was rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards. we offered the indian government
a right to reply to the matters raised in the series. it declined to respond. and supriya, as i was listening to you describe that some large media outlets often side with the prime minister. is that any different to what you might find in lots of countries where certain media outlets are sympathetic to one political perspective and some to another? is that particularly unusual or necessarily a problem? well, ros, it's been well—documented that media freedoms have been steadily declining in india. morejournalists have been slapped with police cases, arrested, jailed, along with legal harassment. there's been a rise in mob violence and online abuse. these very same journalists who were reporting critically on the previous government and had the freedom to do theirjobs, are now under pressure. this is, of course, partly a function of political polarisation, and that's not just happening in india, it's happening in other parts of the world as well. what we're seeing here is that the ruling party and the government have labelled any adverse reporting as agenda—driven and fake.
a minister in the modi government famously coined the term "presstitutes" to give an example of how people in high offices have essentially fanned attacks on journalists. and it's created a chilling effect where it's become harder to do free and actually rigorous journalism that speaks truth to power. and then on top of that, the government's brought this draconian instrument of the information technology rules that are being used with in a rather opaque manner, as raman just explained. and those those it guidelines you're referencing are the same guidelines that rishi was saying, at the beginning, have been used to have certain clips of this documentary removed from twitter and from facebook, according to one government adviser. just to pick up on what you were saying about the experience of being a journalist in india — in the 2022 edition, 2022 edition of the press freedom index, published by reporters without borders, india fell to the 150th
position, its lowest ever. that's out of 180 countries. in the last edition, india moved up a little to 142. the indian government responded to that, saying the methodology was questionable and non—tra nspa rent. now, if we're talking about the relationship between the government and the press, let's also talk about the relationship between the government and tech. and, rishi, if i could bring you in here. we've talked a lot about twitter. have you noticed any shift in how twitter is handling the modi government since elon musk took over? so i think elon musk is the big wild card, as we've seen with his leadership of twitter and his ownership of twitter in general. there appears to be a lack of awareness on the part of how twitter is used in the rest of the world. and india has traditionally been one of the biggest markets for all of these tech companies
and social media companies. i think what's most indicative is that there was no comment from twitter. and secondly, when someone on twitter asked elon musk about the banning of the bbc documentary, his response was, "this is the first i've heard of it." yeah. infact, rishi, rishi, before you go on, i've got that tweet in front of me so i can read it for everyone listening. he said, it's the first i've heard of it. it's not possible for me to fix every aspect of twitter worldwide overnight while still running tesla and spacex, among other things. so he was claiming he hasn't been involved in this matter at all. yeah. and it's also, as soon as he took over the company in october, soon after he laid off roughly half its global staff, and reportedly many of those cuts were in india, in places like nigeria and the broader africa team, where twitter was also briefly banned,
and i think the big shift, i would say, is that twitter in the past, as i mentioned earlier, they actually sued the indian government last year of these rules, twitter has been at the forefront of standing up for free expression, even against governments that might threaten that free expression. and under elon musk, when he took over, he has sort of styled himself as a free speech absolutist. but he's also said that he will not interfere with local the laws of the land. and isn't that a point, and ramanjit singh chima, from access now, let's bring you in on this particularly because you used to work for google in a relation in a job where you interacted with with the government, isn't it just that it literally comes with the territory that if you're big tech and you're operating in one country or another, you may have to compromise your principles to fit in with whatever the laws of that particular country are? i think what it also requires
you to do is when you need to push back or clarify what the law is. as i used to say, like you, i would have police officials drop by office saying, "hand over data on this issue." and i would say, well, sure, the legal authority for that, for which matter. and the first automatic response might be to say no, how dare you ask us that? and then there will be the question, if you escalate this, you will go to court. we will not hold back on this. we will push you to be accountable. and that's the reality of india. in fact, mostjournalists are aware that they receive over—broad, illegal requests all the time. you have to push back and then judges and lawyers and sometimes government ministers do clarify, saying, no, we cross the line there will we won't do that. the reality of democracies is not every order is legal. you can be over—broad. remember, trump blocked access to several chinese services and it was his courts who said his country's courts who said that was over—broad. you might even have a legitimate purpose, but the process you followed is improper. and that's the reality of india. and that's what rishi is pointing out,
elon musk understanding that, oh, well, we push for free speech, but we have to comply with the rules of the rules from different countries is a little bit of a juvenile understanding because in democracies you have to actually push back and contest when something's over—broad. and that's what twitter said. twitter said, "we're not saying that the indian government "can't ask for content. "we block the censors, but we're saying the indian "government's own orders and own practices violate their own "overbroad rules and violate india's constitution." and that's the conversation tech companies, tech companies need to have. so that's how you think tech companies should approach this? supriya, finally, if i could ask you, what about you as an editor, a seniorjournalistic figure in india? do you hear from the government on a regular basis? does the government say to, you know, that article can't stand or that video you've made can't stand? i haven't yet come to that. we aren't really getting direct communication from the government. we are a small, independent outlet. we do our work quite independently. i can't say the same for large media outlets in india. they may be hearing from the government more often, but no, we are not.
having said that, there's always a sword hanging over all of us. as i said, if the government can overnight invoke emergency powers and put a bbc documentary out of circulation, knowing well that this would invite global attention, even criticism, then it's obviously significantly easier for it to censor the work of indian journalists. well, thank you very much indeed forjoining us. those of you listening on iplayer, the documentary is called india: the modi question, thanks to rishi iyengar, supriya sharma and ramanjit singh chima. now, next on the media show, we're going to talk about spotify. it's the biggest music streamer in the world. and a few years back, you might remember it made a major move into podcasts. the idea was to become the netflix of audio, and it's an idea that's certainly evolving. let me just run you through a few developments. spotify has reduced its workforce by 6%. the person in charge of its podcast strategy left recently. bloomberg has been speaking to insiders and saying spotify�*s future isn't exclusive
podcasts, it's advertising. then we have the head of spotify, daniel ek, saying, in hindsight, i probably got a bit carried away and overinvested relative to the uncertainty we saw shaping up in the market. and then also this week, we have louis theroux announcing a new podcast with spotify. so it's all going on and you could well be asking, what is going on? let's try and find out. nick hilton's a podcast industry analyst. he runs the production company poddo. nick, great to have you with us on the media show. help me out here. i'm trying to piece together what what's coming out of spotify. it's requiring a bit of tea leaf reading. we're not exactly sure. and obviously, no billion multi—billion dollar company tells people exactly what's going on in its business strategy. but the sense is that spotify has invested so heavily in podcasting. big bet, as you say, $1 billion bet. there have been some successes. i thinkjoe rogan�*s move to spotify has been a tangible success in terms of giving it that market dominant position. others, like the harry
and meghan deal, i think, have probably not been such an overt success. but either way, the trend in big tech and we've seen this at companies from google to amazon to to twitter and facebook, you know, the trend has been to scale down workforces. investors want sleeker companies that have a clear road to profitability. and right now it's looking like for spotify, whether they're saying it or not, they see that podcasting and that expanded podcasting operation is the easiest fat to trim. well, with us, nick, is the founder of the earbuds podcast collective newsletter. great to have you on the on the programme. i'm looking at figures from last year in the uk 5% of time spent listening to audio is podcasts. do you think perhaps that this is not to run podcasts down at all, that they need to be treated as a relatively small part of the audio offering, whether it's for spotify or anyone else? i actually thinkjust the opposite. i think spotify has a huge opportunity to bring potential
listeners from zero to one, listening to no podcast, to listening to at least one podcast. and that will get more listeners spending more time with audio spoken audio in their ears. i think spotify has the opportunity to use its landscape, to use its apps, to use all of the infrastructure that it has to bring more potential listeners into the fold. i think the key is that daniel ek has sort of implied that he sees spotify's podcasting mission as mature now, that it should be evidencing its successes now. and i think that's the whole industry, which is always treated as kind of nascent, on the verge of being the next big thing. it is a mature industry now. it mayjust simply not be the biggest thing in the world. but why is it not making money for them? they're the biggest music streamer in the world. they've got, as you've been describing, a mature podcast offering — some people listening might be thinking, well, if they're not making money, who can? it's100% not a podcast problem. this is a spotify problem. spotify is not making money. it has never made money.
and it has a complicated rights deal with music studios, record labels, artists, that has basically bled into its podcast offering, and they try to use podcasts as maybe a way of simplifying that difficult rights relationship. but it hasn't worked. and spotify needs to prove that it's going to be a profitable company in the next few years. otherwise, its investors are going to start to ask a lot, lot more and lot more interrogatory questions. so those issues are specific to spotify. arielle, more broadly on podcasts, presumably you look across the us market and see lots of podcasts which are managing to well, notjust make ends meet but make money. yes, there is a lot of money happening for independent creators as well as larger publications. and the reason that podcasters are able to do that is because you'll hear this time and time again, podcasting is an intimate medium. it is a trope that, you know, gets talked about all the time, but it is an opportunity for people to really get into the ears of their fans right then and there. and that allows for advertisers
to reach very niche audiences. but is it also because particularly in the us, but maybe in the uk as well, your average podcast listener is more affluent than the average american? that, the studies have shown that, yes, podcasts, the average podcast listener is is affluent. yes. and they are spending. and nick, if i bring you in here, one of the things i was reading before i came on air was an article by you saying podcasts are dead or words to that effect. now, i think you are slightly, you know, using a headline to get my attention which did thejob. but why do you think podcasts are on the verge of fundamentally changing? i think if we look at the programme we're on now, this show wouldn't exist if it was just a podcast. this is an opportunity to go out on radio four, but it's also a podcast. it's also a tv show. you've got these multi strand kind of productions, and podcasting is at a stage where i think that in order to be a serious competitor across various media forms, you have to be a bit more dynamic.
you can'tjust be, i'm going to go out on this open rss feed, this old school technology that's been around unchanging for 15 years. it's like newspapers not refusing to go online when the internet was invented or not creating a paywall. all sorts of opportunities have come about for podcasting, and i think we'd be foolish not to take this opportunity to rethink the idea. all right. do you watch podcasts or do you just listen to them? i just listen to them personally. would you watch them? oh, no, iwould not. i personally am somebody who likes to drive the car while i'm listening. i like to go on walks. my house is extremely clean because i listen to podcasts. i personally need to be doing something while i'm listening or else i don't retain the information. all right. just quickly, nick, any prospect of spotify making money in the near future one way or the other? i think that the signs look so bad for big tech generally. i think they're going to slim down,
they're going to cut back. and, you know, who knows? but i wouldn't bet on it. nick, thank you very much indeed. yours is going to be the last comment on today's media show. thanks to all of you watching. and of course, thanks to our guests, too, will be back at the usual time next week. till then, bye bye. hello again. well, for most of us, it's been a glorious afternoon. plenty of sunshine around, and quite a contrast to yesterday's blanket of cloud that was across the whole of the uk. contrast that with today's satellite picture, you can see the extent of the day's sunshine, just really the far north of scotland that's had some thicker cloud to deal with through recent hours. and this is what the sunshine has been looking like in northumberland. bit of high cloud here, making the sunshine hazy, but a fine afternoon nevertheless. however, it has been quite a bit cooler. temperatures yesterday in northern scotland reached 12 degrees celsius in kinloss. today, well, around about four degrees celsius lower. but i think for most of us we'd take that change,
given that there's been a lot more sunshine around. 0vernight tonight, high pressure stays across england and wales, and so that will keep the skies clear. for scotland and northern ireland, some thicker cloud working in here will prevent a frost for many. just a few patches of frost in rural areas for east scotland, but the frost will be extensive across england and wales, i think in the countryside temperatures could get down to as low as minus five or so. so a cold start to the day tomorrow. but again, plenty of sunshine in the forecast across england and wales. scotland and northern ireland do have some thicker cloud and there might be an odd bit of drizzle first thing in the morning, but essentially a lot of dry weather and it will probably try to brighten up. some of the day's highest temperatures tomorrow will be across the north, ten in both belfast and glasgow. fortuesday, again, it's the largely dry day, but i think there's a much greater chance of seeing some extensive and dense patches of mist and fog, some of that lingering into the afternoon across southern parts of england and wales where the weather could be really quite chilly. away from that, though, some brighter weather pushing into western scotland,
perhaps a few spots of drizzle crossing northern ireland and moving into northern england for a time. now, wednesday, the winds start to pick up again. and so that should mean the mist and fog is less extensive and probably will be quicker to clear. there'll be a few bright or sunny spells breaking through, particularly to the east of high ground. temperatures, well, around about average for england, wales, but still mild for scotland and for northern ireland. however, towards the end of the week we get this cold front moving its way southwards. that's going to bring a change to sunnier weather. but with showers across northern areas and those showers in lerwick will fall wintry for a time. we are expecting a bit of snow across some of the higher scottish mountains. that's it for now. bye— bye.
this is bbc news — welcome, whether you're watching here in the uk or around the globe. i'm jane hill. our top stories iranian state television says the country's supreme leader has pardoned thousands of prisoners, including many who'd taken part in recent anti—government demonstrations. new cctv pictures of missing lancashire woman nicola bulley have been shared by one of her friends. the images show the 45—year—old in the hours before she went missing next to the river wyre, nine days ago. union leaders in the uk urge the prime minister to intervene in the dispute about health care pay. the biggest week of strikes in the history of the national health service is due to start on monday. the us continues to search for the wreckage of a chinese balloon — suspected of being used for spying — which was brought down by