BBC World Service campaign brought to Westminster
John McDonnell MP addresses BBC World Service campaign meeting - © Luca Neve
18 March 2011
The campaign against the BBC World Service cuts has been boosted by a parliamentary public meeting and the launch of a new campaign video. The NUJ meeting 'Save the BBC World Service' took place on Tuesday (15 March).
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ Deputy General Secretary, told the meeting that the impact of the cuts in the World Service and in BBC Monitoring will be dramatic and devastating.
"Not simply a personal loss for the journalists who produce excellent journalism day after day, but a loss for communities and individuals around the world for whom the World Service is a beacon of light, of hope, and a trusted source of news and information, often in places where trust can be thin on the ground."
Alan Johnston, BBC journalist, said that what's happening is a hollowing out of the World Service.
"They are choosing to turn down the volume, to mute the voice of the World Service. The decision to close parts of the World Service has been made here in this powerful and privileged place, far away from where the World Service makes an impact."
William Horsley, International Director of the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield, said the cuts are happening against the background noise of violence and the coercion of the media around the world.
"The Europe Today programme is the best broadcasting about Europe in the world. It cannot be replaced. The World Service makes a difference to every society where it broadcasts. Changing from radio to internet will shrink the World Service, its impact, reach and reputation."
This is such a massive assault on the World Service, John Tusa, former BBC Director of the World Service, said.
"Yet the sums involved to save the service are derisory. The World Service does a lot of what DFID does, and arguably does it better. There's absolutely no reason why money cannot be diverted. The BBC has to take a lead and push MPs to take this up. This is not a time for the BBC to be hauling down the flag."
Nahed Abouzeid, NUJ World Service representative, said:
"Recent events of restructuring and reshaping the World Service brought upon us 650 job losses and the abandonment of our listeners. All of this was done under the guise of either doing away with language services that are no longer strategically important to Britain or abandoning the old ways of short-wave and relays for the sake of new internet and phone technologies.
"Try telling that to inhabitants of the remote villages in India, Bangladesh or Afghanistan; not to mention Darfur or Libya; or even people living along the North-Eastern coastline of Japan, one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
"If the cuts go ahead, there will be an unacceptable drop in breath, depth and quality of BBC journalism.
"Since the 1930s, BBC staff have been countering the evil fantasies of dictators and their allies with critical, balanced journalism. We have built up our biggest ever radio audience and now at the height of our success we are being forced to throw tens of millions of loyal listeners away.
"Today, hard working men and women from Tokyo to Benghazi and from Manama to Nairobi to Bogota, who are there to represent the best about Britain, are hoping and praying that Members of Parliament will, once again, act quickly to reverse the cuts imposed on the BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring."
Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship, said:
"The BBC World Service is an incredible institution, unequalled around the world. What is happening now is vandalism and scandalous."
"This is the moment we have to fight to save the World Service."
Patrick French, British writer and historian, said:
"The World Service provides considerably more bang for your buck when compared to the money spent on aid to India. More benefit comes from the miniscule spending on Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Nepali transmissions. If you have a resource as valuable as the BBC World Service, it seems frankly crazy to take it away.
"If you want to exert British influence abroad, if you want to exert the very best of soft power abroad, I can't think of a better mechanism than the World Service."
"If the investment in the World Service disappears it can't be replaced, where ever you go people support and love the BBC and the BBC World Service especially."
Owen Tudor, Head of the TUC's European Union and International Relations Department, said:
"The BBC World Service speaks truth not just to power but to people."
Luke Crawley, BECTU Assistant General Secretary, said:
"These savage cuts include plans to cut a quarter of World Service jobs by 2014. Please get active in this campaign: sign the petition, join the Facebook and contact your local MP."
John McDonnell MP said:
"I'd asked a question about the number of representations made to British embassies protesting against the World Service cuts. In response I was told there had been 'a number' and that they had been made 'by letter, email and in person.' That tells me they've been inundated and that this campaign is having a real impact."
The BBC World Service is a story of continuing success: ten years ago, it had 153 million regular radio listeners and, today, the figure is 180 million – representing one in every 25 adults in the world. Journalists are rightly proud of their part in creating that success, but the proposed cuts will damage the BBC World Service as well as cut Britain's influence in the rest of the world.
The cuts will mean:
- Thirty million short-wave listeners will no longer be able to hear the BBC World Service.
- Another twenty million listeners could lose their signal if other changes being considered for English and twelve remaining shortwave services go ahead.
- Job cuts will result in a noticeable drop in quality especially in the core area of World Service News, in the Language Services and in BBC Monitoring.
- The Europe Today programme, whose expertise is used throughout the BBC, is to disappear in the cuts. The Politics UK programme is also going.
- Plans also include shutting down the medium wave World Service in English to Europe, and more than a dozen other services including Caribbean, Russian, Chinese, Azeri and Vietnamese, together with short-wave services in Indonesian, Kyrgyz, Nepali, and Swahili. These services are scheduled to close next week.
- Closures that have already taken place include BBC Portuguese service to Africa, the Spanish Latin American service (BBC Mundo), and the services to Serbia, Albania and Macedonia.
Supporters speak out in defence of BBC Hindi Service Radio in advance of parliamentary adjournment debate on Monday 14 March
For nearly seven decades, BBC Hindi radio has been a credible source of unbiased and accurate information, especially in times of crisis: the 1971 war, the emergency in 1975, the communal riots after the demolition of the Ayodhya mosque in 1992.
Today, India is facing other serious problems: the ongoing conflicts in Kashmir, in the north-east and in vast areas in central and eastern India, where Maoist militants are fighting the state.
Ten million listeners in India – most of them in rural and often very poor areas – need BBC Hindi radio and the accurate, impartial and independent news it provides.
We strongly urge the UK Government to re-think its decision to severely cut the funding for the BBC World Service to enable the continued transmissions of BBC Hindi on short wave radio.
Supporters of this statement:
- Sir Mark Tully, Broadcaster and author
- Gillian Wright, Author
- Arundhati Roy, Booker Prize winner author
- Vikram Seth, Author
- William Dalrymple, Author
- Ramchandra Guha, Historian
- Kuldip Nayyar, Veteran Journalist and columnist
- Amjad Ali Khan, Musician
- Inder Malhotra, Journalist and columnist
- MJ Akbar, Editor, India Today (Weekly Magazine)
- Sam Miller, Journalist and author
- Sunita Narayan, Environmentalist and Editor, Down to Earth (Magazine)
- Kiran Bedi, Reformist and the first woman police officer of India
- Tessa Hamblin, Director, Rehabilitation, Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy
- Swami Agnivesh, Anti-slavery activist
- Prashant Bhushan, Supreme court lawyer
- Dilawar K Singh, Financial adviser (defence services), Ministry of Defence
- Neelima Mathur, Foundation for Responsible Media
- Other quotes in support of the service:
Sunil Yadav, Kosli, Rewari, Haryana:
"Sir I'm blind person. I like the BBC Hindi very much. I have many facilities for news but the BBC is must for me. It is my lifeline."
Chandan Mitra, Member of Indian Parliament Editor, The Pioneer (English Daily):
"Although a pity, the impending closure of BBC's Hindi Service, along with many other regional services, reaffirms Britain's declining role in world affairs. Long after Britannica ceased to rule the waves, BBC continued to rule the airwaves… Although the writing was on the wall for nearly 20 years, it nevertheless came as a shock when the Corporation announced the discontinuation of its Hindi service, among others, as part of a cost-cutting exercise.
"This was quite unbelievable since BBC had invested a lot in upgrading technology and hiring quality manpower for the service during the last decade or so. In fact, Hindi was among its bigger foreign language services and certainly the biggest in South Asia to which it also broadcast in Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, Nepali and, of late, Pashto."
Mohan Singh, Member of Indian Parliament:
"Satellite TV channels might have grown in size, but the number of audience who listen to the BBC Hindi radio has not diminished. BBC Hindi news has its own style. BBC managers have hurt the feelings of Indians by taking decision to stop this transmission in the name of cost cutting.
"After India's independence, one of the BBC's correspondents went to the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi to seek his message for the world. Gandhi was very concerned for Hindi and he gave the interview in Hindi. Born from the womb of English, the contribution of BBC Hindi for Hindi is bigger than those of movies made in Hindi."
Sir Menzies Campbell MP:
"India is the world's largest democracy and an important partner for Britain – it must remain a focus for World Service broadcasting."
James Lamont, former South Asia Bureau Chief, Financial Times:
"True, technology is changing fast in media, and short-wave is viewed as costly old hat compared to FM radio and the internet. But such changes aren't felt deeply yet in northern India where broadband internet penetration is low, and computer access a distant prospect for the country's tens of millions of poor people.
"Radios, however, are popular among the marginalised as is programming distinct from India's own English and Hindi language media. Aid agencies identify local language radio as a key way of getting their messages across about sanitation and schooling in rural and urban India. Besides, Hindi language media is growing fast as incomes rise among the middle class, and in many cases is highly profitable."
Mihir Bose, Journalist:
"You could say I was part of a small minority of the English-educated Indian elite that was taught to believe that a news item was true only if it had been broadcast by the BBC World Service. But it says much for a country that can generate such a belief, so much so that Rajiv Gandhi, in 1984, only accepted his mother Indira had been assassinated when he heard the broadcast of Mark Tully, the BBC's legendary man in Delhi."
Satish Jacob, former BBC Correspondent:
"I worked as a BBC correspondent for 27 years. My boss, Mark Tully, and I always used to say that we would never have become so famous in the absence of BBC Hindi Service."
Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum:
"This is very sad and regrettable. I really hope they will reverse this decision."
What listeners think
Dr D S Harsola, Medical Officer, Madhi, Surat, Gujarat:
"My morning starts with your broadcast of 6.30 am and I go to bed with your 11 pm broadcast. What will happen to me after closure of your radio"
"I am listening to the BBC for the last 20 years. I am shocked to hear that the BBC is going to stop Hindi Radio broadcast."
Jang Bahadur Singh, Golpahari, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand:
"I am now 46 years of age, listening to BBC Hindi since 1978. I was just hoping that the BBC will be alive forever. Our fathers and forefathers have expired listening to BBC Hindi, why you people have not waited till I breathe my last? I am feeling like I had missed my life partner. Hence survival without the BBC Hindi is impossible. Let us see how far I can survive without the BBC Hindi!"
Ravi Kumar, Munger, Bihar:
"I have been listening BBC Hindi for the last 18 years. I remember, my granddad, my father and all my uncles (4) are great fans of BBC Hindi and AAJ KAL. My village is in remote part of Bihar and BBC Hindi has always been a great source of information and connectivity around the world."
Virendra Mohan Sharma Kulhar, Ganj Basoda, Vidisha:
"Please continue broadcasting. As your regular listener for more than 40 years now, I want to fulfil my responsibility. To save my favourite radio I would like to contribute 5,000 rupees (GBP72). Tell me the best way to send the money to you."
Suresh Agrawal, Kesinga, Orissa:
"I am very sad that the BBC is closing its Hindi radio. I have been listening to you for the last 35 years. Let me know how I can help."
Binod Kumar Singh:
"This is a very very big loss for radio listeners in India. Everybody trusts the BBC. I have been listening for the last 16 years. In future it will be a story about BBC Hindi, we will tell to our children."
Anil Nakra, Faridabad:
"This is my 3rd generation who is listening the BBC Hindi service – my grandfather, then my father then me and now my son who is 20 year old is also listening to it. The BBC Hindi is in our blood."
"I am very very disappointed that BBC Hindi service is going to shutdown short-wave service. I am online listener but I can feel the pain of people who don't have access to internet & mobile. Very very upset with the latest development. I wish that the government of India could finance BBC Hindi Service.
"BBC is for benefit of Indians, so why can't the government finance the service? I have been listening to the BBC since my high school days. And now I am 40 living in Canada. My father introduced me and my brother to the BBC. My father is sick but I still tell him that I still listen to the BBC."
Amit Kumar. Muscat, Oman:
"The BBC Hindi is an integral part of our daily life. Our everyday life doesn't get complete without listening it. I had not imagined life without the BBC. Please roll back this decision."
Malay Kachhadiya, Bharuch, Gujarat:
"The news of closing of our favourite BBC Hindi service is unbelievable. I have been with you for the last 20 years. What will be the future of quality Hindi radio news/programme in India? I never thought about such situation... At this moment, I am with your whole team. May god help all of us!"
"I am extremely saddened by the news. BBC Hindi has been the primary source of news for me and my family. I have grown up listening to familiar sound of BBC Hindi playing on the radio early in the morning. Let me know if I can do anything to save the news service."
Pawan Kumar Pankaj, Patna, Bihar:
"The 26th January 2011 became a black day for us, as we were told about the closure of BBC Hindi radio."
"I want to say that the BBC Hindi is our authentic teacher. We believe in it. In India most people listen to the BBC to get success. No other media channel can replace the BBC Hindi radio."
Aman Jasrotia, Leh, Ladakh J&K:
"It was totally heart shattering and horrifying that the BBC world service is stopping some of its language programmes including the Hindi services on SW radio. What is regrettable is that the BBC never took its listeners and appreciators into confidence.
"It's a black day for the BBC and its supporters. There are other media competitors who are expanding their operations but here is the BBC that is doing opposite."
Dr. Yashwant Sardeshpande, Chandrapur, Maharshtra:
"It was a rude shock to listen that BBC Hindi is terminating its Hindi service from this March end. BBC was the medium through which it used to take all of us around the entire world giving first-hand information, news (credible). Besides imparting knowledge on various subjects it used to improve one's own vocabulary.
"It is heard that BBC is starting its own BBC Entertainment Movie channel or like service; but it will help only handful people whereas radio service was catering the need of entire world in every nook and corner where there is no power or costly option of internet or mobile connectivity."
Ramesh Koranga, Düsseldorf, Germany:
"This is the saddest day for me to hear that you are closing your transmission on MW/SW. I have tears in my eyes. At present I am in Germany so that I can hear you on online.
"I am listening you since my childhood back in my Deep Himalayan village Nokori, Bageshwar where there is no Mobiles no TV no newspaper, no roads but the people there know all about our world, what is going on around - due to YOU BBC Medium and Shortwave. The people will be really really sad about that. Even they can't call you to say how they are feeling."
"This must not happen. The BBC Hindi is an integral part of millions of Indians. Why you are shutting down this despite such a huge listenership. Is there any way to run the BBC Hindi radio by volunteers and donations, like Wikipedia?"
Kuldip Yadav, Khazurdih, Ambedkar Nagar, UP:
"It is like killing a family member blaming financial difficulties. You have millions of listeners like me. Let us know how we can fund your operations."