The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organization, providing news to the United Kingdom and worldwide.
James Coomarasamy, a BBC host has been a reporter in Moscow, Warsaw, Paris, and Washington. He was recently in Pittsburgh for the Public Radio Program Director’s Conference and made time for an interview on Essential Pittsburgh.
Coomarasamy’s recent assignments have included work in Moscow, sharing Russia’s opposition to President Vladimir Putin. He explained the importance of the BBC in Russia in bringing news to the Russian people due to restrictions on the country’s media.
“You felt you were doing a bit of a civic duty to a certain extent in some countries where the press isn’t as free as in our countries,” says Coomarasamy.
The BBC has over twenty different language services allowing it to maintain a global presence. Coomarasamy explains, “No story is too local for BBC.” The challenge is making local story resonate with people around the world.
“It makes you think ‘Well, hey, hold on a sec, something we take for granted as being interesting perhaps really isn’t that interesting.’”
One of the biggest stories Coomarasamy covered was Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign in 2008; from the announcement of his presidential run announced his campaign to his election.
“As a journalist, the luxury of covering something for two years, really one story essentially with all its twists and turns, and the drama,” Coomarasamy admits, “This was something that the whole world really felt was their story.”
While the BBC provides global programming, the London-based company faces funding disputes on the home front. Many in the United Kingdom question why government money is set aside for the BBC, especially when there are competing commercial broadcasters. Despite these debates, Coomarasamy explains opinion polls continue to show the BBC is popular among the British public, boasting an 80%+ approval rating.
“Generally speaking, it is seen as this great asset to Britain, and I’m incredibly proud to have worked for it for as long as I have.”
More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.