Tag Archives: BBC

BBC to “protect” World Service in strategic plan presented to Parliament

Fullscreen capture 5122016 113422 AM

Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, has made public the UK government’s plan for the future of the BBC, which among other things, will now include Ofcom regulation.

The BBC Trust will also be dissolved and the BBC will have a new unitary board comprised primarily of members independent of the government.

The plan includes major structural changes to the BBC–indeed, possibly some of the most sweeping changes in the corporation’s history. Most major UK/European news outlets will report on this today.

Of course, I was very curious where the BBC World Service would fall in terms of priority. Based on what I’ve read in the report, there will be a serious effort to “protect” the World Service. The following excerpt from the report outlines the plan:

(Source: A BBC for the future: a broadcaster of distinction)

(Image source: BBC)Prioritising funding and protecting the World Service

The decisions that the BBC makes in allocating funding between services will have important consequences for the overall distinctiveness of the BBC. In radio, budgets have a broad spread across the wide range of services.

This is not the case in television where BBC One receives a far greater concentration of funding (see box 19). While of course the BBC needs to invest in its flagship services, the BBC board will need to give careful consideration to its service-level funding decisions.

Matching investment to the strategic priorities for the BBC is generally a matter for the BBC board. But there is one area so critical to the public interest role of the BBC that it is appropriate for the Charter to be more directive. The World Service is one of the BBC’s most distinctive services.

It is hugely valued by audiences and a vital part of the UK’s ability to lead the world in terms of soft power and influence, with its reach and reputation helping to project UK’s cultural and democratic values to more than 246 million people worldwide.

The government will therefore ensure that the BBC protects licence fee
funding for the World Service at its current level of £254 million
per annum.

The BBC will also receive additional funding from the government for the World Service of £34 million in 2016/17 and £85 million a year in the three subsequent years, a significant proportion of which will be Official Development Assistance. As a provider of accurate, impartial and independent news the BBC World Service helps to strengthen democratic accountability and governance, and promote Britain and our values around the world.

The languages in which the World Service operates, and the objectives, priorities and targets of the World Service will continue to be agreed with the Foreign Secretary.

BBC World News is the prime means by which the BBC distributes its television news and current affairs programmes to international audiences. But it does not have the same reputation for quality as the World Service – which is renowned for its radio output. This is in part a question of funding: BBC Global News, the commercial subsidiary that operates the service, had revenues in 2014/15 of just £94 million, less than 10 per cent of the revenues of BBC Worldwide, and a staff of just 120. The BBC must ensure that all its prominent international services have a reputation for delivering high quality, distinctive output. The new unitary board should therefore consider what reforms are needed to improve the quality of BBC World News.

I’ve skimmed the full report and found no specific mention of shortwave radio broadcasting (no surprise). I’m certain the BBC will continue to broadcast over shortwave to strategic regions of the world in the short-term, but over time will certainly decrease offerings.

Click here to download the full report as a PDF.

South Sudan: Eye Radio reaches new audience via shortwave

EyeRadio

You might recall a post from Robert Gulley earlier this week about Eye Radio. Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino who shares a link to the following article from the BBC about Eye Radio’s broadcasts over shortwave:

(Source: BBC)

A radio station in South Sudan is using older, but tried and tested technology to reach new audiences.

Radio is a crucial medium in South Sudan, where illiteracy is high and many areas lack an electricity supply.

But many people living in remote villages are out of range of existing FM and mediumwave (AM) broadcasts.

Huge distances

To reach these potential listeners, Eye Radio, which is based in the capital Juba and can be heard in regional capitals, has just started broadcasting on shortwave.

The new service covers “the whole of South Sudan, including remote areas in which communities are not able to access FM radio”, says Eye Media head Stephen Omiri.

[…]The station is thought to be renting airtime on a transmitter based outside South Sudan.

Funding for the shortwave service comes from USAID, the international development arm of the US government.

[…]Eye Radio broadcasts in English, standard Arabic, and local languages Dinka, Nuer, Juba Arabic, Bari, Shilluk, Zande and Moro.

The shortwave broadcasts are on the air from 7-8 a.m. local time on 11730 kHz, and 7-8 p.m. on 17730 kHz.

Another station using shortwave to reach South Sudan is Radio Tamazuj, which is based in the Netherlands.

Click here to read the full article at the BBC Monitoring website.

BBC Predicts Internet-Only Radio in the Future

BBC-logo(The following is part news / part editorial)

According to a report going to Parliament for the BBC’s broadcast charter proposal, the BBC is preparing for an Internet-only world for broadcasting. This has prompted an investigation of other radio broadcasting services by Radio World magazine to get their take on this perspective. Part of the article “Is Broadcast Radio Doomed”  follows:

 Conventional radio and television broadcasting are doomed, eventually. Or so one might reasonably assume from reading “British, Bold, Creative,” the BBC’s broadcast charter proposal for the next decade of its mandate. The BBC’s 10-year broadcast charter is up for renewal in 2016. The proposal is the Beeb’s funding pitch to Parliament.

To be sure, the BBC didn’t use the word doomed, or put a timetable on it. However, over the next 10 years, “We will be moving to an Internet-fit BBC, to be ready for an Internet-only world whenever it comes,” states the BBC proposal. The only limiting factor will be to “move at the pace of our audiences”; ensuring that older subscribers have access to content on radio and TV as long as they need it.

Subsequent to issuing this proposal, the BBC announced that it is reorganizing its internal divisions along content rather than platform lines. For instance, “Each overarching division would have subsidiary divisions such as BBC Youth, a mooted subdivision of BBC Entertainment, which would include the online channel BBC Three, and pop music station Radio 1,” reported The Telegraph newspaper . . . .

In the current transitional environment, it is impossible to see just where broadcast radio will be in 10 and 20 years’ time. The BBC’s prediction of an inevitable “Internet-only world” notwithstanding, there are still many parts of the Third World where one-way radio broadcasts remain the only economical, effective way to reach mass audiences; no matter what advances are being made in 4G-and-beyond smartphones in the First World. Add broadcast radio’s resiliency in the face of natural and man-made disasters — compared to the frequent overloading and failure of cellular telephone networks during such incidents — and the notion of shutting down broadcast lifelines seems unlikely in these regions.

– See the full article at: http://www.radioworld.com/article/is-broadcast-radio-doomed/278577#sthash.YrBAkCfQ.dpuf

The demise of broadcast radio has been predicted many times in the past 50-60 years and yet it remains. Still there is a growing mindset in what I call  the Western culture’s business mindset that the pervasiveness of the Internet is the dominant factor in future media decisions. This is the same justification for various governments reducing or eliminating SW Broadcast budgets. After all “Everybody has the Internet now!”

This is a mistake, and belies a Western-centric view of the world. I cannot claim to know the real numbers, but I have little doubt the numbers representing Internet availability are inflated, partially because of assumptions and partially for selfish business interests.

In an ever-competitive entertainment market broadcasters (and governments) are naturally worried about such things as market share and the like, but this is only looking at things from one side of the coin. Anyone who uses the Internet outside of the home knows data fees can become enormous, and therefore we watch just how much traffic we pass through our wireless devices. (Yes I admit it – any place I go regularly which has “free Internet” gets loaded into my list of networks so as to keep my data charges down.)

How many people are going to listen to radio streams like they do now to radio broadcast stations? Are you going to drive home with your radio on through the Internet? I doubt it. Similarly how many people listen to the radio in places where there would be no coverage of wireless? I believe the market share would decrease rather significantly in these same western cultures where the Internet is indeed plentiful, but not certainly not free.

Having been involved in the early days of the public Internet back in the 90s, I remember meeting with city planners when they were looking to offer free Wi-Fi within the city so everyone could have access. While the idea sounded good, the logistics of equipment, and more importantly the expense of such an ongoing system, quickly laid such plans to rest for most government budgets.

I hope the pendulum swings back over time and business leaders and government officials recognize the value of both shortwave and OTA radio broadcasts. The Internet is a shiny diversion to be sure, but it is not the answer to all of our media needs. And whether folks like to admit it or not, the Internet is a fragile thing. As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. How many times a year does your Internet service go out for no apparent reason, much less because of weather or other disasters?

Broadcast radio needs to be supported for many of the same reasons as shortwave radio – there simply is no more reliable way getting information out to the most number of people over the greatest possible coverage area.

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Radio 4 Doc: Learning to Listen

Atwater-Kent-DialLooking back through my notes this morning, I re-discovered this excellent documentary on the early days of radio listening; how radio changed the way we interacted with music and how we interacted with our radios.

(Source: BBC Radio 4)

As broadcasting took the world by storm in the 1920s, the radio quickly became the hub of many households. Entire families would huddle around their receiver, each person individually connected with their own headset.

But for this first generation of radio listeners, the flexible styles of listening that we habitually employ today were by no means innate – many sat silent and fully attentive, listening just as they would in a concert hall.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook charts how a new, more informal style of listening gradually evolved through the 1920s and 30s, by delving into the diaries of the Austrian musician Heinrich Schenker.

Schenker began to record what he heard on the radio within days of the inaugural broadcast from Austria’s first official station, Radio Wien. This rare and fascinating record, which spans just over a decade, offers tangible evidence of how new approaches to listening emerged over these formative years. We’ll follow Schenker’s journey as the radio shifts from being something that demanded his rapt attention, to eventually becoming an integrated part of his domestic life.

Click here to listen to the full documentary on Radio 4.

BBC: Raspberry Pi-powered transmitters broadcast Syrian radio

BBC-FM-Transmitter-SyriaMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares the following:

Latest item, which provides more information, on this previously mentioned news story:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35690688

Here’s an excerpt:

Raspberry Pi computers are being used to power “micro” radio transmitters in Syria.
The Pocket FMs, as they are called, were designed by a German organisation as a way of providing Syrians with independent radio.

The devices have a range of between 4 to 6km (2.5 to 3.75 miles), which is enough to cover an entire town.

At the heart of each is a Raspberry Pi, the credit card-sized single-board computers.
About two dozen have been built, and the designer says they are intended to be as easy to set up as a piece of flat-pack furniture.

“We lost one device in Kobane”, Philipp Hochleichter told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

“But due to the bombing – not due to a malfunction.”[…]

Continue reading on the BBC website…

The Raspberry Pi is an amazing little computer; capable of so much at such a low cost. I just purchased a Raspberry Pi 3 yesterday; hoping I can think of a clever way to use it for a little radio fun..