This is a sad week for fans and listeners of the BBC World Service.
According to news reports, the British Foreign Office has cut BBC’s World Service budget by 20%, resulting in sweeping reductions in their shortwave service. As many as 650 jobs will be lost by 2014 and cancellation of shortwave service in five languages and several countries. It appears they are cutting SW service to China, Cuba and the Balkans, instead relying on mobile phone & internet access (note that according to Keith Perron, the BBCWS Chinese site has been blocked for 10 years and in Cuba less than 1% of the population have access to the internet).
My real fear is that listeners who rely on the BBC WS via shortwave–those who live in rural, impoverished countries, for example–will have no voice to express the loss of a lifeline of information to them. It’s quite easy for us to forget that the internet and mobile technologies have not yet penetrated these “markets” and that shortwave radio is the most effective and affordable means to receive high-quality news and information.
As The Guardian put it, the BBC WS will be “eclipsed” by Voice of America. I certainly hope that the VOA can give its markets better service stability.
More on the BBC World Service cuts:
Thanks to Kim Elliot, Keith Perron and BernieS for their commentary.