Budget cuts silence more BBC regional news services

byDana Liebelson
Mar 28, 2011 in Multimedia Journalism

The BBC budget cuts have claimed more victims: the Caribbean, Russian, Vietnamese and Mandarin services have all made their final broadcasts.

Budget cuts at the BBC began in January 2011 after the U.K. government slashed BBC funding by 16 percent.

Since then, the BBC has silenced broadcasts in Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian and Portuguese for Africa. Radio broadcasts in Spanish for Latin America and Russian have also been cut and recently broadcast for the last time. BBC Hindi also recently faced a large cutback.

The latest four channels to be axed have operated in their regions for at least six decades. The Caribbean Service was launched in 1939 with a program featuring West Indian troops on active service during WWII reading letters to their families. BBC Chinese was instrumental in carrying news into China during the Vietnam War and Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. The Russian Service soldiered on despite regular jamming by Soviet authorities.

The BBC justified its decision by saying that it must focus its efforts on "languages where there is the greatest need with the strongest impact." There has also been talk about meeting the demands of the digital age. In China, for example, shifting to web-only Mandarin service could potentially provide better service as Chinese users are increasingly using mobile phones to access foreign media websites.

But others fear that ending these language broadcasts will affect millions of listeners who don't yet have access to digital news.

"Internet media may be up and coming, but what about those people living in mud huts, shanty towns and third-world countries during a coup? Radio is their only lifeline," one commenter wrote on the BBC website.

Photo by Chiefmoamba, Creative Commons Attribution License