When the cock is silent then the beans can be counted

Network Africa was always an odd sort of programme. It tried to be all things to all people. Somehow it was a news show plus magazine programme, combining studio guests discussing their latest movie, for example, with breaking news, prefaced with a proverb and disrupted in the middle by a piece of music, the whole thing punctuated by a crowing cockerel.

Yet I loved it.

For five years living in Nairobi it was the soundtrack to my morning. It kept me up to date with what was happening all across Africa, informed me of the developments I should be covering, the new books I should be reading and the dates I should be putting in my diary.

A little over two years ago I was lucky enough to be a guest promoting a rapidly remained book on an obscure African war. I’m afraid I gushed a little as I explained to presenters and producers how excited I was to make it to their Bush House studios. They even dropped the music segment so I could discuss my book in a little more detail. The honour…

So I was saddened to learn that tomorrow’s edition is the last. It is to be “merged” into Newsday, a programme that will be presented from Johannesburg and London.

Now, you don’t need to know much about African news to know that it rarely gets a look in except for specialised news programmes in its own ghetto. I’m assured Newsday will be different. That it will take Africa to the world. Well I hope so

On the other hand it seems to be part of a trend that sees the World Service’s specialist content watered down into a series of more generic news programmes, a sort of template that can be adapted ever so slightly to cater for different audiences. There is already a Newsday with a presenter in Singapore for telly. So it seems that the world is getting a uniform news show, with segments opted out for local content.

Of course I could be wrong. But if that’s the case, and Africa coverage is improving, why has Network Africa been running tributes to itself all week (listen to last five minutes of that link)?

As I blogged elsewhere, the cloying wave of nostalgia as the BBC left Bush House suggests to me that the journalists themselves are not eying the future with any great optimism. Why else create so many programmes about yourself, or about an organisation moving buildings (happens all the time, with a lot less fuss, doing it myself shortly). As I said…

Nostalgia is never the sign of a self-confident institution looking to the future.

So goodbye Network Africa. I, for one, will miss you. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Newsday.

And one last question: What’s happened to the cockerel?


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