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 ‘can make a difference’ in North Korea

NorthKoreaMap

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Ulis, for the tip:

(Source: The Independent)

One of the world’s experts on North Korea has called on the BBC to “be part of the solution” in fighting human rights abuses under Kim Jong-un’s repressive regime by initiating Korean-language broadcasts by the BBC World Service.

Michael Kirby, the eminent retired Australian judge who chaired a recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea for the United Nations Human Rights Council, told The Independent that the BBC could make a difference to the lives of people in “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr Kirby said the BBC was in a position to make a difference in North Korea.

[…]He told The Independent: “The strict controls on sources of information in North Korea, revealed in the COI report, surely add to the arguments for an increased outreach by the civilised world to the people of North Korea. With its hard won reputation for truthful reporting, fair coverage and proper priorities, the BBC has a special potential to be part of the solution.”

[…]Funding of the World Service has passed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to the BBC. Previous BBC studies have identified problems in providing a Korean service, especially in relation to the difficulties of the North Korean population tuning in and defying the ban on listening to foreign broadcasts.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said recently that it was “not currently possible for the World Service to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service”. But last week Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire gave renewed hope to campaigners for a Korean service when he said: “We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response.”[]

Read the full story at The Independent.

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!

Guardian: BBC World Service asking for voluntary redundancies

(Photo source: NY Times)

(Source: The Guardian)

Corporation’s global arm to close 73 editorial posts, but hopes to avoid compulsory layoffs as part of £42m budget cuts

The BBC World Service has urged all its network news journalists to consider voluntary redundancy as it aims to avoid compulsory layoffs as part of £42m budget cuts.

The BBC’s global arm is closing 73 editorial posts following its cut in funding by the government in 2010.

Post closures include 16 in network news, which includes domestic journalists based around the UK, 14 in World Service news, and two in newsgathering for world and business.

Stephen Mitchell, the BBC’s deputy director of news, urged staff to consider voluntary redundancy in an email on Thursday morning.

He said: “We are committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies where possible, and have previously been very successful in achieving this. We hope to continue our good record, and therefore are asking all network news staff once again whether they wish to be considered for voluntary redundancy.”

[…]Compulsory redundancies at the World Service led to two walkouts by staff last year.

[…]The National Union of Journalists has criticised the World Service cuts. General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the job losses “fly in the face” of the corporation’s commitment to quality programming, and urged director general George Entwistle to push for a renegotiation of the licence fee settlement.

“The World Service is a source of information for people across the world, described by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan as ‘perhaps Britain’s greatest gift to the world’,” Stanistreet added.

[…]”These cuts will severely impair the BBC’s scope and services at a time when they are needed more than ever. The BBC needs to stop and rethink its approach to the World Service before it does irreparable damage.”

Read the full article at The Guardian website.

BBC: Shortwave hit by World Service cuts

As we mentioned last week in our post with the internal memo from the BBC World Service, the BBC has now formally announced that World Service shortwave broadcasts in Arabic are to close by next April and the Cyprus shortwave relay station will close as well.

(Source: BBC)

Short wave broadcasts of World Service Arabic will end by next April, while the Cyprus short wave relay station will close.

World Service English short wave transmissions will be reduced to six hours a day, with 1.5m listeners likely to be lost as a result. Currently, there are between seven and 19 hours of short wave depending on region.

The distribution changes – which include cuts to medium wave transmissions – are designed to save £4.8m in 2013/14. It’s a large chunk of the £12m savings the World Service is targetting in its third phase of cuts as a result of a 16% reduction to its grant-in-aid.

An estimated 3% of the Arabic audience is likely to be lost when the eight hours a day of Arabic short wave in the Middle East is halted. A short wave service will continue in troubled Sudan where there’s a ‘strong need’ for humanitarian information and access to other platforms is limited…

Read the full article on the BBC website

BBC World Service to make further cuts in third phase of “savings”

Note that these cuts are a continuation of the overall £42m the BBC announced in January of 2011.

Follow World Service cuts on the SWLing Post with the tag BBC World Service Cuts.

(Source: The Guardian)

A further 73 posts will be lost at the BBC World Service following its cut in funding by the government with a number of programmes on its English-language service axed.

The cuts, which were announced to staff on Thursday lunchtime, are the third phase of £42m of savings at the global broadcaster after its budget was cut in the government’s comprehensive spending review in 2010.

A total of 25 jobs will go on the English-language service with arts show The Strand to be axed and World Briefing replaced by a new programme, The Newsroom.

News coverage will shrink from 18 to 14 hours a day during the week, with a “simplified” schedule and “fewer regional variations”.

The number of documentaries will also shrink, from four weekly strands to three, with Your World axed, and Evan Davis’s The Bottom Line no longer aired on the World Service.

None of the 27 foreign-language services will be dropped in the latest round of cutbacks, saving about £12m, which will come into effect by April next year. Some £30m of cost savings have already been made.

[…]A total of 44 posts will be closed in foreign-language services including BBC Afghan, BBC Burmese, BBC Bengali and in Africa.

The director of BBC Global News, Peter Horrocks, said: “By making these changes, we are achieving the savings required whilst crucially, ensuring our audiences continue to receive the best programming.

“As we prepare to move to licence fee funding, by focussing on key strategic objectives, we will be able to demonstrate that we have clear direction and purpose and are as efficient as possible.”…

Read the full article on the The Guardian website.

BBC Bush House: auctioning bits of radio history

BBC World Service – Bush House

(Source: London Evening Standard)

Thousands of fragments of BBC history, ranging from “on air” lights to a picture of Sir Paul McCartney broadcasting live to fans in Russia, are going under the hammer in a huge auction.

The lots are all from Bush House, the Aldwych home of the BBC World Service for the past 71 years, which the Corporation vacates tomorrow. Entire studios are among the items for sale and are expected to attract bids of up to £10,000.

Elizabeth Sewell, managing director of specialist auctioneers Peaker Pattison, which is handling the sale, said: “A lot of overseas radio stations are interested in buying the large studios such as S6, which is the one Paul McCartney used to broadcast to Russia. We’ve had enquiries from India, Pakistan and all across the former eastern bloc.”

Turntables and reel-to-reel tape decks in the auction have attracted huge interest from club DJs who use them for mixing dance tracks. Online bidding for the first 1,500 lots has already started and will end on July 25. A second tranche of lots will be sold in September. The highest bid so far is £910 for a Steinway baby grand  piano.

Many of the lots reflect the huge diversity of cultures represented at Bush House, where 68 language services were broadcast, ranging from Maltese to Welsh for Argentinian Patagonia.

They include maps of India, Mexico, central Africa and the main theatre of the Second World War, as well as a painting of the BBC motto “Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation”.

As well as the former Beatle’s famous 1989 broadcast, there are photographs of Mikhail Gorbachev, Bob Geldof, Charlton Heston, Sir Bobby Charlton and Yes Minister actor Paul Eddington.

Staff at Bush House have now relocated to the newly refurbished Broadcasting House in Portland Place. The BBC European Service moved into Bush House in 1941 after bomb damage at Broadcasting House, followed in 1958 by the rest of the Overseas Service.[…]

Read the full article at the London Evening Standard.