Tuning in to the future for shortwave
We answer your questions about the BBC World Service’s plans for shortwave. With many tens of millions still relying on it to listen every day, what does the future hold?
Plus: earlier this year it was “temporarily suspended” due to Covid – but now Weekend is back. We get your reaction.
Presenter: Rajan Datar
Producer: Howard Shannon
(Source: BBC News)
The BBC World Service will launch 11 new language services as part of its biggest expansion “since the 1940s”, the corporation has announced.
The expansion is a result of the funding boost announced by the UK government last year.
The new languages will be Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.
The first new services are expected to launch in 2017.
[…]The plans include the expansion of digital services to offer more mobile and video content and a greater social media presence.
On Wednesday the BBC launches a full digital service in Thai, following the success of a Facebook-only “pop-up” service launched in 2014.
Other expansion plans include:
- extended news bulletins in Russian, with regionalised versions for surrounding countries
- enhanced television services across Africa, including more then 30 new TV programmes for partner broadcasters across sub-Saharan Africa
- new regional programming from BBC Arabic
- short-wave and medium-wave radio programmes aimed at audiences in the Korean peninsula, plus online and social media content
- investment in World Service English, with new programmes, more original journalism, and a broader agenda
The new language services mean the BBC World Service will be available in 40 languages, including English.
Lord Hall has set a target for the BBC to reach 500 million people worldwide by its centenary in 2022.
In addition, Mike Terry, posted a link to this Leading Article from The Times which focuses on the BBC expansion. This content is behind a paywall (though you can register to read two free items per week) but here is an excerpt from the conclusion that I found particularly interesting:
“The radio may seem an irrelevance in the age of the internet but it is the most intimate of the so-called mainstream media and as such poses a challenge to authoritarian rule. Radios are cheap, ubiquitous and can whisper truths under the bedcovers. There is nothing that dictators hate more than direct access to the ears of their subjects.”
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares a link to the excellent archived radio documentary, The first 21 years of the World Service, via the BBC World Service‘s online audio archives.
The recording/broadcast dates from December, 18 1953. Here’s the description of the recording:
The first 21 years of the World Service: how it began in 1938, its important role in WW2 and its aftermath, including historic moments as they were first broadcast by Churchill, de Gaulle, Eisenhower.
VOG Interval Signal
I learned an interesting fact in this documentary: I had no idea that the BBC used the Greek radio interval signal for their Greek language service while Greece was occupied in WWII. After liberation, the BBC Director General “solemnly” handed the famous interval signal–“the sound of shepherds’ pipes mingling with the bells of their flocks”–back to Greece. Amazing.
The Greek radio interval signal is one of my all-time favorites. Indeed, my mobile phone’s ringtone is the VOG interval signal:
If you would like to add this ringtone to your mobile phone, check out this post from 2013.
Sadly, 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.