Like millions of others, I grew up with the BBC. Today I work for a BBC co-production. I’m not a BBC employee, but I’m close to this story. And, um, that’s not me in the picture. I use a smaller microphone.
The cuts: five BBC language services will close (Serbian, Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and English for the Caribbean). Seven more language services, including Mandarin Chinese and Hindi, will be cut back from radio to internet only. A further six services will stop transmitting on short wave.
It means an estimated 30 million fewer BBC listeners worldwide. Will people migrate to the web and to English language news, or will the BBC – and its news values – become less influential?
There was a huge amount of coverage of this story. Most people were critical of the cuts with the British government — rather than the BBC — receiving the blame (here and here for example). But in Britain there is a BBC-despising minority which offered its own spin.
For the pod, I picked some of the best pieces of the BBC’s own coverage: interviews with the director of BBC global news Peter Horrocks, former World Service director John Tusa, and British foreign minister William Hague. Hague heads the Foreign Office, which has presided over the BBC World Service.
I also interviewed Debbie Ransome, head of the axed Caribbean Service. The Caribbean Service could be seen as some broadcast throwback to the days when the World Service was known as the BBC Empire Service. But Ransome says the service is unique in that it is regional, and so rises above the interests of any single country. She says the other broadcast media in the region either take political sides, or play a lot of music and not much else.
So which global radio services will move in to replace the BBC? The pod’s last interview is with journalism professor George Brock. He says that services run by the Chinese and Russian governments are likely to benefit, especially in Africa and Asia. And they don’t have the same news values as the BBC. Where the Beeb is remarkably successful at maintaining its editorial independence, Brock says the Russian and Chinese operations are mainly mouthpieces of their respective governments.