Adverts on the BBC World Service?

(Image source: BBC)

(Image source: BBC)

According to this article in The Independent, the international arm of the BBC plans to commercialize:

“The BBC has sparked anger with plans to commercialise the 80-year-old World Service, and to downplay the coverage of politics in its global television news output.

The changes, which one MP warned could jeopardise the future of the licence fee, are being lined up as the broadcaster prepares to take over funding of the World Service, previously paid for by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Reforms could include having advertising on the service.

In a letter sent to a member of the House of Lords, the Director of the World Service, Peter Horrocks, has also revealed plans to use private funding to support the prestigious radio network which began as the British Empire Service in 1932. “The BBC Trust is considering proposals for a wider commercialisation of World Service, which might involve launching new language services, if they could be commercially self-sustaining,” he told Lord Alton of Liverpool.” [continue reading…]

While it’s hard to imagine the World Service advertising over shortwave, I certainly believe adverts in local radio and TV markets could become a reality. The broader implication (at least, in The Independent) is that the BBC WS program offerings will shift in order to appeal to sponsors. Then again, this would come as no surprise, as every other broadcaster who relies on commercial sponsorship has done the same.

Many thanks to Jonathan Marks for the tip!

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.

BBC World Service to “simplify” English and cut Arabic on shortwave

BBC-WorldServiceSadly, the BBC World Service is going forward with cuts that had been announced in 2012.

Global English service is being reduced, but Arabic services are being cut altogether. The BBC expect to lose 1.5 million listeners to Global English cuts, 800,000 listeners to Arabic cuts.

Fortunately, they will maintain all shortwave service into Sudan.

Here is the full press release:

(Source: BBC Media Centre)

25 March 2013

The World Service English global schedule will be simplified with fewer regional variations from Sunday 31 March 2013 and shortwave Arabic broadcasts will cease.

The reductions to shortwave services were announced in October 2012 as part of the UK government’s 2010 spending review. BBC World Service on FM and online and on television will not be affected and no language services are closing.

Shortwave and medium wave transmissions in English will be reduced to a minimum of 6 hours in total each day. This will generally be two periods of between 2 and 4 hours each, usually at peak listening times in the morning and evening to help minimise disruption. The changes will have less impact in regions where World Service is increasingly accessed via partner stations or online and in countries where FM is widely available.

Steve Titherington, Senior Commissioning Editor for BBC World Service, said: “We know that increasing numbers of people are accessing World Service on FM, online, and television. For those who can’t access these platforms, we’ve tried to ensure that they will continue to hear to the best the World Service has to offer at times of the day when they are most likely to tune in.”

“As part of the new schedule we will endeavour to have a mixture of news, current affairs and a mix of programmes covering the arts, science and human interest stories.” says Titherington.

A new programme, The Newsroom, will replace World Briefing. Outlook will be extended to an hour-long format and offer a new approach to covering arts, music and humanities following the closure of The Strand. Every Friday, The 5th Floor will run in the prominent Outlook time slot offering a review of the pick of the BBC’s 27 language services programing – in English.

The estimated loss of listeners to Global English on shortwave will be around 1.5m listeners, equivalent to 1.3% of the total Global News English audience on any platform.

BBC Arabic audiences are estimated to reduce by 800,000 as a result of the closure of shortwave broadcasts.

In the Arabic speaking world, the World Service broadcasts on a network of FM relays, a 24-hour television channel and thebbcarabic.com website.

Shortwave services to Sudan are not affected as the shortwave service is currently the most viable method of broadcasting to this large region.

A West Dorset view on the Rampisham Radio Transmitting Station closure

Photographer: Nigel Mykura. (Creative Commons)

(Source: Real West Dorset)

RAMPISHAM’S radio transmission station may close before Christmas with the loss of more than 20 jobs, even though it’s currently broadcasting into Libya.

The proposed shutdown of the Dorset site follows the BBC’s decision earlier this year to cut back on World Service shortwave broadcasting and stop it altogether by 2014, even though nearly half of the World Service’s audience (184 million in 2010-11) listens via shortwave.

The BBC says it’s phasing out shortwave because the Foreign Office cut the World Service grant by 16% (£46 million).

The author, Jonathan Hudston points out:

Britain has three major sites broadcasting internationally on shortwave. The others are Woofferton in Shropshire and Skelton in Cumbria. Rampisham broadcasts more hours than they do, is more reliable, and has a wider reach across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. (It’s a little-known fact that the National Grid runs right through the Rampisham site, supplying 60,00 volts. I think it has only ever lost power twice in 70 years. Once was during the Great Storm of 1987, which shows it takes something pretty extreme).

He goes on to ask:

Is it really in the UK’s national interests to dismantle Rampisham and sell its equipment for scrap?

The modern preference is said to be for internet-based services, but Jo Glanville, in a good piece about the World Service in the current edition of the London Review of Books, makes the point that shortwave radio can reach many millions of people in ways that internet-based services cannot.

He has a very good point. As we’ve mentioned numerous times before, shortwave radio crosses borders better than any other medium. It’s hard to block and untraceable.

(Read the Full Article Here)