The BBC and their Trump localization challenge

Warning: This post includes language some may find offensive.

german_swearwordPresident Trump’s recent undiplomatic language to describe Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador was a big news story. So how did the BBC report it? That depends on where you were watching or listening.

Whilst the word “shithole”was deemed acceptable to a domestic audience in the UK, it wasn’t to folk in the US. You see The BBC is bound by the guidelines issued by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), that regulates TV, radio, cable and satellite output. It lists words that are deemed offensive or indecent.

The end result was that listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme were able to hear the quote in full, whilst those watching the BBC’s World Service received a slightly different quote.

In fact it left reporters with a bigger question. Could they report the story at all? If they couldn’t use the word “shithole”, what word could they use to get past the FCC’s regulation? “Arsehole” was deemed inaccurate, so should you use a nondescript phrase instead (e.g. “Trump’s vulgar slur”). The trouble with that is the story loses potency.

Localization of any kind is a sensitive issue. I mean why do you think the Red Cross is rebranded the Red Cresent in Islamic countries? It is so easy to offend.

So what would you report Trump’s quote? I think I’d have just translated it into German. It sounds so much better.

Fake News

Is “fake news” the answer to disenfranchised voters?

Donald Trump loves being in the spotlight. That’s why I won’t follow him on social media. It’s bad enough that virtually every day we have to hear of his latest tweets on the evening news. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that I don’t agree with what he’s doing. It’s an effective communication strategy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right communication strategy.

Let me address head on the allegation that I just don’t get what he’s about. I do.

I see exactly what he’s doing. He’s sidestepping the mainstream media, because he knows it can censor or spin his words. Plus his demographic don’t read the New York Times or listen to NBC. They feel left out by mainstream politics, and by association the mainstream media. To be fair, they have a case.

It’s just a shame that to gain office, Mr Trump has had to embrace this abrasive, aggressive, and confrontational communication style. It divides opinion rather than unite people. That is what I find most objectionable. It’s politics for the greater good, so long as you’re in his core demographic support. If not, screw you!

If you needed convincing, the new US Ambassador to the Netherlands got in on the act recently. He was caught denying a quote, when he clearly said it, denouncing the allegation as “fake news”. He then denied saying he’d said it was fake news.

US Ambassador to Holland

Such brass necked  cheek doesn’t wash with me or the Dutch reporters who witnessed it. We know what they are trying to do, and the US administration doesn’t seem to care that we know.

But this is a diplomat, and a senior one at that. I’d always thought that an Ambassador had to tread a delicate balance between the interests of their home country, and the cultural sensitivities of their hosts.

This example of “Trumpism” demonstrates a seismic shift in this balance.

We’ve seen such behavior before at White House press conferences. Back on home ground you can say it is OK, well sort of, but to do the same on a supposed ally’s turf? That demonstrates a total disrespect.

It is often said that the sign of a strong democracy is having media free to practice without undue outside interference.

By refusing to answer questions, or denying outright allegations despite overwhelming proof to the contrary, undermines the media’s authority. It is effective at controlling the press, without actually having the mandate to do so.

One more thing. As a political person, I understand the importance that politics has on our lives. The trouble is, politics has a bad name in some quarters. Why? Some folk think politicians don’t live in the real world, are just in it for themselves, and that they lie.

I can’t think who they could possibly be referring to! Can you?

Here’s the irony though.

This demographic is often the least socially mobile mobile. Their less well educated, in manual or blue collar jobs. They feel cut off by society. Left behind if you will. In fact they are the very demographic that got Donald elected.

Such examples of obstinacy do nothing to attract those disenfranchised by politics. I don’t suppose his fan base care. They’re just happy to have a billionaire champion. The fact he takes lots of holiday at the huge cost to the US tax payer, and hates being challenged by anyone, seems to be lost on them. After all, he stands for everything they crave, doesn’t he?