The Straits Times: “Western radio broadcasters tuning out”

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Richard Cuff, for sharing this article from The Straits Times which interviews our friend Victor Goonetilleke. This is one of the first articles I’ve seen in the international press which gives a listener’s perspective on recent cuts to shortwave broadcasting.

Analog Radio Dial(Source: The Straits Times)

For 67-year-old Victor Goonetilleke, sitting with his headphones on in his house in the lush green Sri Lankan countryside, June 30 was the end of an era.

Voice of America’s (VOA) short-wave broadcasts to Asia abruptly went off the air, raising howls of protest from many of the US government-funded broadcaster’s listeners across the region.

But as the broadcasts had already been greatly diminished, this was not a surprise. The big Western radio broadcasters have gradually ceded the political “soft power” space they once dominated to a new heavyweight: China Radio International (CRI).

In recent years, Radio Canada International and Radio Netherlands Worldwide have shut down while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and VOA have cut back on their range of languages and hours of programming. Now, the VOA has left Asia.

Mr Goonetilleke is not just an avid radio listener. He professionally monitors radio frequencies for the VOA. He is also a former veteran radio correspondent with Radio Netherlands for 24 years in an era when short-wave radio broadcasts from the likes of the BBC, VOA, Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle were often lifelines to other worlds for hundreds of millions especially in times of conflict and misery.

The BBC now broadcasts in 29 languages across the planet, down from a peak of 69 in the 1970s. CRI broadcasts in 65, up from a reported 43 in 2006. Some programmes are run by local FM stations.

These days, Mr Goonetilleke can listen to four hours of CRI broadcasts in Sinhala and Tamil daily, compared with 30 minutes each on BBC.

CRI’s Tamil language broadcast is one of its oldest, run by fluent Tamil speaker Zhu Juanhua, a Shanghai native better known by her tens of thousands of listeners as Kalaiarasi.

According to the CRI website, it has 3,165 listener clubs around the planet, including CRI netizens’ clubs.

[Continue reading…]

 

BBC News to cut 415 jobs, but add £5M to World Service budget

(Image source: BBC)Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Richard Cuff, for sharing:

(Source: BBC News)

The BBC’s News department is to axe 415 jobs as cost-cutting measures continue, the BBC’s director of news James Harding has announced.

The move is part of £800m efficiency savings required after the licence fee was frozen in 2010.

The latest cuts are expected to save £48m by 2017.

BBC News currently employs around 8,400 people, including around 5,000 journalists, based in London, around the UK and overseas.

He also set out plans to substantially restructure the news division and put the BBC at the forefront of producing news for the digital age using new technologies.

A total of 195 new posts will be created to fulfill this plan, meaning a net reduction of 220 full-time jobs overall.

Around 70% of the annual running costs of BBC News are staff-related, meaning there would inevitably be an impact in this area, Mr Harding said.

(Continue reading…)

The article continues by outlining all of the cuts and gains to the BBC.

I took note that BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight and the World Service program Newshour will be consolidated under a single editor. The BBC World Service’s budget, however, will increase from £245m this year to £250m in 2016-17. (Perhaps the most positive news in international broadcasting circles this week.)

Also check out Jonathan Mark’s comments on Critical Distance.

BBC World Service longevity vs. commercialization

(Image source: BBC)

(Image source: BBC)

Back in October 2010, we learned that the BBC would take over the cost of the World Service from the Foreign Office from April 2014. Shorty thereafter, the BBC World Service was dealt a 20% budget cut which eventually lead to the loss of 550 jobs. Now April 2014 is upon us.

The BBC, which is largely funded by a mandatory TV license fee, must now share its budget with the World Service. But even after the announcement of this consolidation, the TV license fee was not increased accordingly.

And then there’s another over-arching question: Will the BBC be a good steward of the World Service? BBC World Service boss, Peter Horrocks was recently asked this question by The Guardian:

“The switch from government to licence fee funding prompted fears that if the BBC faces further downward pressure on budgets – surely inevitable – it will be the World Service that suffers rather than a domestic channel such as BBC2. “Of course there may be people who make those arguments,” concedes Horrocks. But he argues that licence fee payers directly benefit from the World Service’s role as an ambassador for the UK and from its journalists who increasingly contribute to the BBC’s domestic output. Plus, it has nearly 2 million listeners in the UK every week (including its overnight broadcasts on Radio 4).”

Horrocks is being optimistic. After all, while not on the scale of the BBC, the death of Radio Canada International had much to do with the fact that the domestic news arm, the CBC, found RCI an easy cut. When the CBC was dealt a 20% overall budget cut, it cut RCI’s budget by 80%, effectively firing Canada’s radio “ambassador.”

Moving forward, the BBC World Service is dipping its feet into commercialization to prop up their relatively meager budget and to lighten the load on the TV license payee. As my buddy Richard Cuff says, this is a slippery slope–and as Peter Horrocks states, It’s not that easy to get advertising in Somalia.

If you would like to read more about the changes at the BBC World Service, check out these most recent articles:

You can also follow our tag: BBC World Service Cuts

BBC World Service to further reduce shortwave

(Image source: BBC)

(Image source: BBC)

I appears the BBC World Service is cutting shortwave broadcasts even further in an attempt to meet tighter budget numbers. Not many details, at the moment, in terms of what language programs will suffer the most.

Many thanks to Richard Cuff for the tip:

(Source: The Guardian)

The BBC World Service will further reduce its shortwave transmissions next year as part of a £15m savings drive which staff have been warned will be a “real stretch”.

The money will be used to invest in new TV and digital services, part of a programme called Invest to Innovate.

An extra £6.5m is being pumped into the World Service’s budget this year, alongside an extra £1.5m of savings, helping to create 130 jobs. New initiatives include a global version of Radio 1’s Newsbeat.

But the BBC’s director of global news, Peter Horrocks, said further savings would be required in the future.

[…]Horrocks said changes would include more multilingual reporting, with staff filing for their own language service and in English, as well as a further reduction in shortwave transmissions.

He said the World Service would also have to integrate further with the main BBC News operation.

Horrocks also announced that the BBC’s global news division, which includes its world news TV channel, would be renamed “World Service Group … a sort of World Service-plus” and the World Service board would be axed with the change in its funding.

[…]It closed five language services, stopped radio broadcasts in seven languages, cut back on shortwave and medium-wave transmissions and axed a number of World Service English programmes.[…]

Read the full article at The Guardian online.

Concerns about the BBC World Service after reorganization

BBC-World-ServiceJonathan Marks of the weblog Critical Distance writes:

Bumped into an interesting document on the voice of the listener and viewer site in the UK.

They seem to be concerned that BBC will reorganise so that BBC World Service won’t get representation high enough in the organisation. I have heard it said that this was a problem during the days of Sam Younger 1994-1998. BBC World Service will need a powerful voice to show its value. The licence fee is a continuous debate in the UK. But it surprises me that BBC WS doesn’t really have an organised listener foundation like the VLV. Those resident in the UK are not the target audience for the BBC WS.

http://criticaldistance.blogspot.nl/2013/12/who-will-speak-up-for-bbc-world-service.html

Thank you, Jonathan. Indeed, I often wonder if RCI would have been struck so hard by (CBC) cuts if the international broadcaster had a strong leader; one who looked to innovate and adapt.

After listener feedback, BBC World Service restores MW service to Israel and Middle East

Antennas-001SWLing Post reader David commented on June 8 that he heard the return of the BBC World Service on 1,323 khz BBC Zygi, Cyprus relay.

The BBC Media Centre confirms:

The BBC World Service has confirmed that MW transmissions to Israel and other parts of the Middle East will resume for 10hrs per day on 1323kHz starting on Friday 7 June.

This will give listeners breakfast listening and then drive-time and evening coverage from about 4pm to 10pm.

The morning hours are as 02:59:30 to 06:59:30 GMT and the evening schedule will be 12:59:30 – 18:59:30 GMT.

Steve Titherington, World Service Commissioning Editor, says: “We had a huge response to the end of MW transmissions in Israel and we are responding positively to listeners’ demands for a return to of the BBC broadcasts. Cutbacks mean we can’t return to a full day-long schedule, but we will broadcast at times when we hope audiences are most likely to listen. We want to thank our listeners for their feedback and would welcome any further comment they have about how suitable these new broadcasting times are for tuning into the BBC World Service.”

As previously announced four hours per day of World Service English will continue on 720kHz until 22:59:30 on 21 June.

MP criticism over BBC World Service’s uncertain budget

BBC-WorldService(Source: BBC News)

Uncertainty about the BBC World Service budget as the corporation prepares to take on full funding of the service is “unacceptable”, MPs have warned.

Foreign Office funding for the service will stop in April 2014 when it will be paid for out of the licence fee.

The Foreign Affairs Committee said the World Service could not “plan properly” because the BBC had yet to issue an operating licence to define its budget.

[…]A World Service spokesman said the change in funding next April, when it will be integrated with the BBC’s domestic news services, “provides certainty and stability”.

But the committee of MPs said it did not see how the World Service could prepare when it would not know “either the priorities, targets or characteristics which have been set for it, or its budget” until a few months before the change came into force.

[…]The committee also warned that, while it was logical to withdraw shortwave radio in dwindling markets where audiences had access to the internet and TV, such services still had a place.

“The World Service must continue to take into account significant audiences in certain parts of the world, such as rural India and Africa, who currently rely on shortwave radio,” it added.

The committee’s report, which also covers the work of the Foreign Office and the British Council, also warns that the UK risks losing credibility if more senior diplomats are not fluent in a range of languages.

Read the full article at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-22208426

Thanks for the tip, Andy.