Wednesday 2 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 2/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Peter York

One to watch

I’m worried about the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation, which is a national broadcaster but not a state one, recently turned 100. Over the past century, it has become the world’s most admired broadcaster, with the World Service and the wide distribution of UK programmes making British journalism, comedy and music a vast national soft-power asset. But there’s a real possibility that it might not survive the decade in its present form.

The BBC’s deepest enemies remain in political power in the UK and want an ever-shrinking state. Not so coincidentally, they often have skin in the game: a broken-up BBC would make government-supporting media plutocrats even richer and the latest consequence of that piecemeal undermining of the corporation came this week, with fresh cuts to local BBC radio services. Both the UK’s right-wing government and its supporters in the press seem to believe – wrongly – that the BBC is a political enemy that needs to be taken down a peg. They would prefer it to be like PBS in America: a tiny, marginal news and culture supplier with limited relevance.

The BBC, meanwhile, doesn’t fight its own corner and is nervous about the government’s control over its public funding, which has dropped by 30 per cent in real terms since 2010. Its response to attacks – mainly from the right – has been excessive “impartiality” over subjects with clear rights and wrongs. We only need to look to last year’s events at the US Capitol to see the logical conclusion of tiptoeing journalism in a polarised market.

One thing I’m really not worried about is the BBC’s ability to cope with competition from streaming companies such as Netflix, whose rapid growth has stalled in recent months, or its ability to reach younger audiences. For an organisation that regularly punches above its financial weight, the BBC has a bright future if it has the funding it needs – and, crucially, a politician-proof status. But if we lose it, we’ll never get it back.

Peter York is a cultural commentator and co-author with Patrick Barwise of ‘The War Against The BBC’, published by Penguin.

Image: Shutterstock

Trade / Germany & China

Balancing act

Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is due to lead a business delegation to China at the end of this week and his planned meeting with president Xi Jinping (pictured, on left, with Scholz) is already attracting plenty of criticism in Western capitals. The German government is keen to maintain trade ties with China, a huge export market for the country’s companies. Scholz’s comments last month – that decoupling from China was the wrong answer – won boardroom support at home and made him the darling of Beijing’s state-owned media. But Berlin’s business-first approach is increasingly at odds with its US and European allies, many of whom are busy revising their China policies amid Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, human-rights abuses in Xinjiang and tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With Germany already taking flak for its dependency on Russian energy, Scholz will be under pressure to show that the economy is not similarly exposed to China. Beijing’s paths can be slippery in winter and the German chancellor will have to tread carefully.

For more on East Asia’s shifting geopolitics, tune in to Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Aviation / Pakistan

Flying without wings

Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) announcement that it will soon start flying to Turkey again carries greater significance than the average new route. The company, along with other Pakistani carriers, has been banned from flying in the EU, UK and US since 2020, when Pakistan’s government revealed that more than 260 of the country’s pilots had been flying with fake licences. While those bans are still in place, the mid-November launch of new routes signals PIA’s ambition to rebuild its reputation on the EU’s doorstep.

The first flights from Lahore and Islamabad to Istanbul will allow passengers to continue their journey further west, thanks to an agreement with Turkish Airlines. PIA was previously the only Pakistani carrier flying to the EU and UK so the ban has proven costly. It will certainly want to do everything it can to prove its credentials when the European Commission visits Pakistan to review safety measures – this is expected to happen in early 2023. Whether passengers return is another question.

Image: Sam Barnes/Web Summit

Technology / Lisbon

Casting the net

Lisbon’s riverfront district of Parque das Nações is currently the centre of the technology world as it hosts the city’s annual four-day Web Summit, which began yesterday. Some 70,000 attendees and 2,000 firms are expected at the fair, where businesses from banking to medical technology meet and compete for investment. Another beneficiary is Lisbon’s hospitality sector: the conference generates hundreds of millions of euros for local restaurants and hotels. This year’s fair has added events with award-winning chefs and the country’s wine regions.

Portugal’s emerging technology scene is also getting some notice thanks to start-ups such as Sound Particles, an audio-software company used by gaming firms and Hollywood studios. “At past editions we found a new investor and met CEOs that are now our clients,” Sound Particles founder Nuno Fonseca tells The Monocle Minute. City officials have signed on to keep the event in Lisbon until 2028, clearly having understood that it’s a chance not just to facilitate deals but to sell Lisbon itself.

Image: Thomas Prior

Design / USA

Social work

The future of work has changed, Ryan Anderson, vice-president of research at furniture giant MillerKnoll, tells Monocle. While the five-day office week has largely been relaxed, few jobs will be entirely remote. The US company is betting that the office will become like a second home; a social space where people actively want to gather and connect with colleagues. This approach is encapsulated in MillerKnoll’s new retail headquarters in Connecticut – a calming, light-filled building overlooking Stamford harbour. Instead of designated desks, staff can duck into small, glass-fronted spaces that look remarkably like home offices for focused work or video calls.

“We are using this office in the way that we intend to recommend others to set up their workspaces,” says Debbie Propst, MillerKnoll’s president of global retail, adding that social working spaces like this are increasingly sought after by traditional corporate clients. MillerKnoll’s two constituents helped to shape the workplace of the 20th century; with beautifully-designed spaces like the Connecticut HQ, it might be about to do it again.

To hear more from Ryan Anderson, pick up your ticket for ‘The Chiefs’, Monocle’s Dallas conference dedicated to improving leadership, lives and livelihoods.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories: The Salk Institute

Ivan Carvalho visits a Louis Kahn-designed laboratory that exemplifies science and aesthetics cohabiting in harmony.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: November issue

Looking to kit out your home, office or hotel for the colder months ahead? Look no further than our Design Top 20, with furniture finds, inspiring interiors and insights from key industry leaders. Plus: who will be keeping the lights on this winter, the rail industry gets back on track and a hotel special featuring openings from Manhattan to Hakone.


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