BBC World Service to get more money, but less influence?

(Image source: BBC)

(Image source: BBC)

Jonathan Marks takes a look at the future of the BBC World Service under the umbrella of the BBC News group board.

His conclusion? Just doing the news may be “too narrow a remit.”

I tend to agree.

Read for yourself on Jonathan’s blog, 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

Richard voices his opinion about BBC World Service commercialization

BBC-OverToYouRichard Cuff–noted SWL and festmeister for the Winter SWL Fest–sent a message to the BBC World Service listener feedback program Over To You deploring the BBC’s decision to incorporate limited advertising on the World Service as of April 2014.

Over To You contacted Richard and invited him to an interview where he discussed these changes with Mark Bunting, head of BBC WS Strategy.

The program aired earlier this week. Richard noted that the discussion was “chopped quite a bit” to fit a nine minute time slot.

Click here to listen to Richard’s interview on Over To You: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01sbmkt

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.

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.

Allen’s thoughts as BBC Cyprus relay station closes today

bbc_arabicSWLing Post reader, Allen, writes:

BBC’s Cyprus relay station is being closed down today after more than 50 years of service. The BBC currently uses the station to broadcast its Arabic radio service to the Arab world on short wave. The BBC will still incur the cost of making its Arabic radio service in London, but it will only be available to listeners if Arab governments permit it, as the radio channel will only be available online or where governments have permitted the BBC to have an FM licence.

So – Saturday (today) is the last day that the ten million Arabic radio audience will be able to listen on short wave.

If all Arab regimes were really democratic enough to have a permanently free media and allow the BBC on, what is the point of the BBC Arabic anyway? But do we really believe that all the Arab world is free and democratic??

It is also another blow to the English World Service. World Service listeners lost their medium wave service to Europe on 648 two years ago. The closure of Cyprus means that the continuous World Service English medium wave service to Israel and surrounding countries on 1323 kHz also ends today.

For the time being, the Arabic medium wave to small parts of the East mediterranean will continue from another part of Cyprus. This will carry English for just two hours of daytime and two hours in the middle of the night on 720kHz.

The Cyprus relay station was taken over by the BBC as a result of the Suez Crisis.

It is part of the WS strategy to move from short wave and radio into television forced through against the views of World Service traditionalists by Peter Horrocks (head of Global news) and a contender to replace Helen Boaden as head of BBC news.

Peter Horrocks has no radio background, as former editor of Newsnight.

Peter Horrocks has diverted much of the 200 million pound annual World Service budget into making television programmes given free to local stations in Africa, and India. The flaw in that is that the BBC has no guarantee that the programmes will get through local consorship.

This is also the last Saturday that rural areas in Africa will get the Saturday afternoon Premier league live soccer commentary and other sports coverage from World Service. English short wave is being cut by 60 per cent from this weekend, with only 6 hours a day left – and no live sport on Saturday. It will be available if you are in a big city with an FM BBC relay, but most listeners still rely on short wave in Africa.

The only upside is that – at least this six hours a day in English seems to be guaranteed for another 10 years, as that’s the length of the BBC contract with the transmitting firm, Babcock.