October 2, 2008

(Corr) BBC Head on Plans for Big Cat Live Programme From Kenya

(Correcting word in last sentence from "Dairy" to "Diary")

Text of report by Michael Mumo entitled "Mara goes live on BBC" published by Kenyan privately-owned radio station Capital FM website on 2 October

Kenya's rich diversity in the Maasai Mara will be showcased to millions of viewers in the United Kingdom from this Sunday [5 October] when a week-long live series gets under way on the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The director-general of BBC, Mark Thompson, says "Big Cat Live" will provide new insights not just about the wildlife in the Mara but also the people.

"There's going to be many hours of live broadcasting and a big presence on the internet as well. It's a chance to get a sense of the what the Mara is like; about the life of the animals and particularly some of the predators, but also through the eyes of Jackson (Looseyia), our Maasai guide, get a real sense of how humans fit in the story," Mr Thompson told Capital News in an interview in Nairobi.

He said snippets of the show were already available on www.bbc.co.uk/bigcat.

"Big Cat Live" has followed the lives of the lions, leopards and cheetahs in the Maasai Mara since 1996. Since then, Jonathan Scott and Simon King have recorded the fortunes of several families of leopards, lions and cheetahs, sharing their expert insights into the lives of these often elusive animals.

"We now want to paint a picture of the Mara which also reflects the incredibly rich and interesting human lives and which I hope it will encourage more people come to Kenya. We want to give a sense of the amazing beauty of this country. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world and I think when people in Britain and around the world see, it will be encouraged to come and see it for themselves," Mr Thompson said.

Apart from visiting the filming crew in the Maasai Mara, Mr Thompson has been in Kenya taking part in road shows hosted by the BBC and partner FM Kenyan stations. "We think we've got something distinctive to offer audiences here in terms of a pan African and global perspective. So far we have 270 partnerships with FM stations across Africa where we share content. The BBC which has a wonderful heritage in Africa has also got a great future as well," he noted.

He said the BBC would continue to provide a bigger and richer picture of Africa with its pool of African journalists in Kenya and across the continent.

The BBC's biggest African hub is located in Nairobi and had, over the years, expanded to become a major reporting and production outpost for the BBC World Service in Africa.

It covers Burundi, Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda for TV, radio and news on-line.

"With programmes like 'Big Cat Live' and our coverage of soccer across Africa with the build up to the 2012 games in South Africa, we want to try really hard to make sure that the picture we paint of Africa out of Kenya is balanced. It will be truthful and uncompromising," he added.

He said the BBC frequently focused on the challenges posed by HIV/ AIDS in Africa making it an issue for politicians and health professionals to consider. "But also across Africa, the World Service Trust which is associated with the World Service also offers advice in terms of media training and advice to health professionals and officials on how to coordinate campaigns around sexual health," Mr Thompson said.

He observed that one of the most critical aspects in the fight against HIV/AIDS was giving the population information that empowered them to minimize the risk of infection. "Obviously the biggest responsibility lies with the country itself but we can play a bigger part in media training. I've been incredibly impressed by the synergy and dynamism of the media market which is very competitive," he said.

He added: "If you want to retain your audiences and attract new audiences you need a very broad view in your journalism. You need to cover everything from politics to entertainment and the arts and sport."

Zain Kenya has, in the meantime, said it had optimized its network around Olkukurruk and Aitong areas [in Maasai Mara] to enable millions of people throughout the world follow the Big Cat diary TV show live.

Fans of the popular TV programme will, for the first time, be able to view live broadcasts directly from the Maasai Mara.

On its part, Zain's network will be used by the crew to MMS video clips straight into the BBC Wild Cat Diary website.

Originally published by Capital FM radio website, Nairobi, in English 2 Oct 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.