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.

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13 thoughts on “Allen’s thoughts as BBC Cyprus relay station closes today

  1. LIORA

    I live in the US. My brother in Israel asked if I can buy him a radio which will enable him to listen to England’s BBC station.
    He is able to do so on a friend’s radio, UNIVERSE USA FM-MW-SW1-7 WORLD RECEIVER -NR-822R2, but the radio is over 10 year old, and cannot be purchased any longer, I have tried.
    Since in 2013 you said you are still listening, can you tell me if the broadcast still comes in shortwaves or what? I am clueless on the subject. Do you know a good radio that I should look into buying.
    Toda Raba for any info you can give me.
    Liora at [email protected]

    1. Moshe Ze'ev Zaharia

      Hi Liora.

      I live in Israel (Be’er She’va), and I can confirm that the BBC is received easily here on MW, 1323kHz.
      There are BBC shortwave frequencies that can be received here, but 1323 is on Medium Waves, so any simple radio will do.
      As for your brother, you can send him the Tecsun PL660, it will do the job (For Shortwave).
      Best regards and Shana Tova.

  2. Wolfgang

    Good news – even for those who can hardly profit directly (here in Central Europe). Mediumwave is absolutely fine for intelligent speech and, like SW, hard or impossible to censor or jam unless interferers are prepared to bear huge expenses. And, MW radios are ubiquitous. A lot of broadcasters in Central Europe, especially German ones, have been closing down MW services rashly, and have been quick to dismantle or destroy the transmitters: what a stupid thing to do. Cost is not just what you can count immediately. — Three cheers for the BBC WS!

  3. david higgs

    Just stumbled on to this: “CYPRUS
    1323khz BBC Zygi, Cyprus is on the air Again with BBC World Service in English. Very good signal in israel.
    Arabic language broadcasts on 720 kHz and 639 kHz in the morning and evening to the Middle East is still on the air from Cyprus relay.
    O. Barth (7/6-2013)”

    and not even an official murmur. not even mentioned here:

    anyway we are back in business. Just listening to Sports World 16:30 GMT like in the old days..a few months ago.
    No need to leave this country now…

  4. Jonathan Slavin

    Just learned of this upon my return to Israel. I cannot imagine anything more shortsighted. JHS

  5. Ervoo

    Already missing the World Service on 1323 MW, especially the Saturday afternoon sport. And I agree with “WK – Israel” – the World Service was also for me a companion on the morning commute to work.

  6. NNF Israel

    I have been listening everyday to 1323 for the last 45 years. It has been a source of good English and a psychological prop in hard times. I am about to feel very very lost. Losing the BBC on medium wave is like losing a close friend.

    1. david higgs

      I too was devastated when they snipped 1323 khz but can you Adam and Eve it? I am listening to it again right now! How can that be?
      Service resumed from Cyprus ‘cos of more conflict in the area? Lyse Doucet said so?

      david n. higgs 8046
      holon 58180
      +972 (0)508641079
      +972 (0)544556668

      1. Thomas Post author

        Very interesting, David. Please keep us posted if the service continues an (especially) if you hear why.


  7. stubbings

    I have listened to BBC East Medditeranean Relay Station BEMRS for the most of the last 43 years, thru good times and bad and have been gratefuk many times for their information and having cursed them at other times for their inaccuracies and political bias.
    I can see they will not be welcome in many Arab states as they are so blatantly radicaly left wing and out of touch with local culture. The fact that their stringers and reporters live locally does not mean that they have their finger on the pulse but more reflects the opinion of a few sympathetic people who want to put their opinion across and the opinion of the local booze hole.


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