Tag Archives: BBC World Service Cuts

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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

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BBC internal memo outlines year three cuts and changes to the BBC World Service

This BBC internal memo, sent to employees by World Service Director, Peter Horrocks, outlines the unfortunate pending cuts and changes in much greater detail than those presented by the press.

Here is the memo in its entirety–it concludes with further comments from internal sources:

Dear colleagues 

Today we are announcing Year 3 Savings from the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review settlement for the World Service.

We took quick action last year to deliver the bulk of the required savings immediately after funding cuts were announced in 2010. As a result, we have already achieved nearly £30m of our £42m three-year savings target. However, this still leaves £12m of savings for 2013/14, the final year of Grant-in-Aid funding.

We will be making changes to programming, staffing, scheduling and distribution. We have tried to avoid job losses wherever possible. Of the £12m savings, a significant £4.8m will be achieved via reductions in shortwave and medium wave distribution, details of which will be announced next week. However, it is impossible to make cuts of this scale without impacting on jobs and the plans announced today will result in 73 post closures. Affected teams and individuals have, of course, already been informed and we will work with them to help them through this.

The main changes today are as follows:


  • We are simplifying the World Service English global schedule to have fewer regional variations, creating a more coherent offer which we can also promote and cross-trail more effectively. Being able to link together all the programmes in an hour will also make it easier to fit our content into partner stations’ schedules.
  • A new programme, The Newsroom, will replace World Briefing. This new programme will be live and reactive and it will showcase the best of our Newsgathering presence across English and WS Languages. There will be six editions of The Newsroom across the schedule, with World Have Your Say and The Newsroom coming together each day at 11:00 and 11:30 BST, a prime spot in the schedule.
  • Schedule changes mean fewer full hours of news output – down from about eighteen hours each weekday to about fourteen hours. As a result, there will be post closures in WS News. Further savings will be found in WS News through efficiencies and by integrating some functions across BBC News. In addition, there will be some reductions in Newsgathering, resulting in some post closures.
  • World Service English is also creating a smaller single management team working across distribution, channel management and scheduling. There will be a reduction in the number of specialist announcers on WS English.
  • From April, we will close our daily arts programme, The Strand, and at the same time extend Outlook to an hour long format, offering a new approach to covering Arts, Music and Humanities. A daily 10 minute section will look at the people behind the world of music, entertainment, film and the performance arts.

Every Friday, The 5th Floor will run in the Outlook time slot. The move of this programme to a more prominent slot in the schedule is an indication of its success after less than a year on air and it is a great way of bringing the work of our Language Services to an English audience. The 5th Floor will include a 10 minute arts segment drawn from the Language services’ coverage across the week.

We are also making space in the schedule for The Slot: an hour long programme dedicated to arts and culture coverage across the BBC and the Language Services.

These scheduling changes will enable a significant saving, but will ensure that arts coverage maintains prominence and relevance on the World Service, while making best use of our connections across Languages and the broader BBC.

  • There will be a reduction in the number of documentaries: instead of having four weekly documentary strands, we will now have three with Your World ending. There will be no post closures as a result of this change.
  • Bottom Line will no longer be reversioned for the World Service. Again, this will not result in post closures.

These changes in WS English will result in the closure of 25 posts.


Year 3 savings affect those Services which were not required to make changes in Years 1 and 2 of the Spending Review settlement.

  • There will be a change in the editorial purpose and remit for the English Language Teaching team. For the last four years, the team has been asked to earn revenue from commercial sources. In the future, the team will focus on public service provision. This change in remit will result in post closures.
  • There will be post closures in BBC Afghan, BBC Burmese, BBC Bengali, and French for Africa. In some services, this will be mitigated by the creation of new posts in bureaux overseas driven by new editorial and operational considerations.
  • A number of currently vacant posts in the Near East hub, African English, BBC Swahili and BBC Brasil will not be filled and will therefore close.
  • In 2013, BBC Swahili morning radio production will move to Dar es Salaam, and the dawn transmission for BBC Somali will move to Nairobi. This will deliver savings for these two services. One vacant Swahili post will close. There will be no impact on Somali posts.
  • BBC Hausa and Great Lakes will be making changes to their schedules to deliver savings. There will be no impact on posts.

The changes to WS Languages, including a few extra post closures outside the UK to be announced at a later stage, will result in 44 post closures.

In addition to the above, now that we have moved out of Bush House, we will be closing four posts in WS Property.

Despite financial pressures, we have continued to adapt our services in response to changes in our audiences and this strategy will continue. We have already seen the successful launch of new TV programmes, Focus on Africa in English for partners and on BBC World News, and Dira Ya Dunia in Swahili, carried by partner broadcasters across sub Saharan Africa. We plan to develop similar programmes in Hindi and Urdu and hope to be able soon to announce a successful conclusion of negotiations with our partners on this new programming.

As we prepare to move to Licence Fee funding, we will be able to demonstrate that the World Service remains strong despite the funding cuts of recent years, is more efficient than ever, and remains a vital force in today’s complex media world. As the new Director General stated in his opening address to staff, he is very supportive of the World Service, as is the BBC Chairman. No doubt, following two major reductions in two years to the size of the World Service, many of you will have questions about its future.

Before 2014, the BBC Trust will prepare a licence describing the purpose, remit, strategy and budget of the World Service in the Licence Fee. The Trust will consult and publish on this licence ahead of transfer to the Licence Fee. This licence will be the key document that will, from April 2014, govern the size, shape and character of the future World Service. All World Service staff will have the opportunity to share their views with the Trust and this will include opportunities to hear from and question individual Trustees.

As I said above, the changes we are announcing today do impact on individuals and teams. We have notified the NUJ and BECTU of these proposals and will consult both them and staff affected so that we can look for ways to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies where possible. I know you will all be supportive of your colleagues through what will be a difficult time and I and the World Service management team will do all that we can to help them through this.


Internal sources also suggest:

  • nearly all Arabic on shortwave is to end (apart from broadcasts targeting Sudan)
  • the BBC Cyprus relay on SW is to close and English MW from Cyprus is also closing
  • BBC English World Service to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is to be cut from 18 hrs a day on SW to 7 hours a day

It seems much of the monies are being diverted from shortwave to fund TV ventures, instead.

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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.

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