BBC places Nigeria in ‘Southern Africa’. It’s not the first geographical blunder that this supposedly authoritative broadcaster has made recently.

7 December 2021 By Paul Martin

The BBC has made a new geographical blunder. The flagship BBC Radio 4 morning programme, Today, informed its listeners in its 6 a.m. news that Nigeria is in Southern Africa. Any glance at the map, let alone general knowledge, would have told the reporter that Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, is way north of the equator and is the biggest country in West Africa. It’s huge: 923,768 square kilometres (356,669 square miles) and, with its 212 million people, it has the largest population in Africa and the seventh largest population in the world.

From a listener’s twitter-feed

BBC Business Correspondent Theo Leggett (a former BBC World Service reporter) informed his listeners, at exactly 5 minutes and 19 seconds into the programme, that Nigeria had been placed by the UK government on the list of “countries from Southern Africa” which were on a red list. That meant each traveller coming to Britain from those countries will now have to undergo at least ten days at his or her own expense (over £2,000 for each traveller including Covid tests) in government-designated hotels — confined to their rooms — because they might carry the new variant of Covid.

Theo Leggett on Muck Rack
Blundering Theo Leggett, BBC correspondent (from photo on his Twitter-feed)

The blunder was not repeated when the same reporter was heard an hour later: a subeditor had snipped out the word “Southern”. This may have something to do with our article, which first appeared at around 6-40 am. Or it might have been after the blunder aroused a sarcastic response from one of the programme’s listeners.

Leggett quickly apologised on twitter (but not on the radio). The twitter feed did carry a link to the listener’s comment, but Leggett failed to tell his own twitter followers directly what he was apologising about. Then, mysteriously, any reference to his blunder on Leggett’s own twitter-feed vanished. We can still find it, however, via Muck Rack.

The BBC has made no comment.

Worryingly, Leggett had previously had control of news bulletins on the BBC World Service. His linked-in entry, for the period 2006-2014, says: “I was also required to carry out duty Editor shifts, overseeing the output of a team of journalists producing multiple programmes”.

Other UK national broadcast media also often get things wrong. Here’s an example we published in October 2020:

Channel 4 News: “Latest figures show that the number of UK cases has risen by nineteen thousand seven hundred and ninety (19,790) in the last 24 hours,” declared the Channel 4 News newsreader.

Actually this is the daily number of people who have tested positive for Coronavirus. In fact it’s a DROP from the number of people who tested positive on previous days.