If you travel (or live) outside North America much you’ll be familiar with the ubiquity of BBC World and CNN International. The latter, in James Earl Jones’ voice identifies itself simply as CNN, just as its North American counterpart, but is in fact a very different channel. Just to the right of the omnipresent CNN logo is a small, slowly spinning globe. And that globe means a lot: the anchor desk is based in London and the programming is much more news-heavy, infotainment-eschewing, and editorially pure than CNN in North America. Much like BBC World, the channel follows a format of 30 minutes of pure international news at the top of the hour followed by a variety of shows on the half hour. Many of these shows like “Diplomatic License,” “Inside Africa,” “World News Asia” and “International Correspondents” are also chock-full of interesting world news content. Anyone who remembers and liked CNN in the 80s will feel right at home watching CNN International.
Whether you’re conservative, liberal or somewhere in between, if you crave a news channel that isn’t sensationalistic and ratings-hungry and focuses on serious analysis of the news, BBC World and CNN International are terrific news programming sources. The problem is that until recently, neither of these channels was widely available in the United States (I believe BBC World is available 24-hours a day on some Canadian cable systems, however). CNN International was available all weekend and from midnight until around 8am each weekday morning by watching CNN fn, which was off the air at that time, but not on a full-time basis.
But now there’s a better option. Recently, CNN fn went dark (which is too bad, I actually liked watching it) and on many cable systems, including Time Warner Cable’s DTV digital cable service in New York, CNN International has replaced CNN fn and is now on 24 hours a day. On Time Warner in New York, you can tune to channel 133 and watch CNN International whenever you want. If you think of it, at the top of the hour, tune in and see what you think. If you’re serious about your news, this could become habit forming for you.
If you can’t get CNN International, or even if you can, you have another option for hard world news. Many of the news half-hours from BBC World are carried on BBC America (a digital cable/satellite channel) and many PBS stations. If you’re a news junkie and you have a DVR, you can do what I do: tell your machine to record all airings of BBC World News on all channels, saving only the one most recent recording (you may want to give the recording a relatively low priority so that it doesn’t pre-empt other recordings you’ve programmed in). This way, you’ll always have a recent half hour of world news near the top of your recorded shows menu, and you won’t use more than a half-hour’s worth of hard drive space on your DVR. This approach works quite well, especially in markets like New York, with a number of PBS stations (including new digital-only PBS channels). Here in NY, if you have digital cable, BBC World News airs on a total of five different channels.
By the way, both channels have their own Web sites. BBC World’s is www.bbcnews.com, which redirects to http://news.bbc.co.uk/. Unless you’re in the U.K., you’ll probably want to select the World Edition. And speaking of selecting the World Edition, you can configure CNN’s main home page, www.cnn.com, to display CNN International’s content by clicking the International Edition link on the upper-right of the home page or by pointing your browser directly to http://edition.cnn.com. Oh, and check out BBC World's front page RSS feed here. News junkies of the world, unite!