April 19th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

BBC is cutting back its foreign language radio services

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called it perhaps Britain's greatest gift to the world but Britain is now taking part of that gift away thanks to budget cuts.

I'm talking about the BBC's Foreign Language radio service. At one time it broadcast news of the world in an astounding 69 different languages.

As a kid in Mumbai I grew up listening to the BBC World Service getting my first sense of the world around me. Around the globe, millions of others listened too. But the BBC has now decided to stop broadcast services in Hindi, Mandarin, Russian, Turkish, Albanian, Vietnamese and many other languages. The BBC says for many of the languages their radio broadcasts will become internet webcasts.

But to take two examples: China has only 20 percent Internet penetration and India, just 5 percent.

Maybe there is a billionaire out there who could fill this budgetary gap.

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Topics: Culture • Global • Last Look • Media • United Kingdom

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Dan Farfan

    This is why liberalism will ultimately fail. You think "Maybe there is a billionaire out there who could fill this budgetary gap" counts as creative, or even an idea. So you say it on TV and on a blog. Promote it on twitter. Did I miss any methods you use without paying for?

    Someone who understands (and reveres) free market capitalism would use his public position to call the folks at BBC to gather data to put together a BUSINESS PLAN, publish that and promote that to all potential investors. It doesn't take a "billionaire" to "fill this budgetary gap" from the goodness of a heart or a depth of a pocketbook to make something good happen. Doesn't take nanny govt redistributing wealth for something good to happen, either.

    HuffPo seems to be in the perfect position to joint venture with BBC, to name one.

    I agree with you, what BBC is canceling is worth trying to save (no telling how hard they tried to be creative). Charity isn't the only possibility, even if it's your first and last stop.


    April 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  2. Onesmallvoice

    I only wish that BBC wouldn't cut Russian from it's broadcast list as I enjoy listening to it. On the other hand,I wish it would add German as it's the most beautiful language there is. Most Americans speak only English as it is their perogative so they have no perception of the beauty of these two languages. The one language that I do hate,however,is the Tea Party lingo. It's a dialect of American English more commonly known as profanity!!!

    April 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Matt

      I feel the same way,Onesmallvoice. I too hate that Tea Party lingo but young people in America use it all the time as if they consider it quite acceptable and I guess that most of them do,unfortunately. I like Russian although I find it quite difficult to learn,but then again,Greek is even more difficult and BBC never used it.

      April 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  3. anese

    Way before cnn 24hr news coverage bbc world coverage at the tip of Africa it was the only reliable source of news during the days of apartheid.Unfortunately all good things come to a end.BBC became irrelevant as the internet/ competition from other media platforms became popular.What do we learn from this is,stay ahead of the curve.

    April 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  4. Bernard Gardner

    I share your regret! It is a significant loss to the universal quality of human life!

    April 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Maybe listeners all over the world will have to learn English, if they want to stick to BBC. There are many Brits back home, who are hurt by the drastic spending cuts. So keeping up with appearances abroad is not the first priority of Cameron's cabinet.

    April 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Reply
    • Onesmallvoice

      I sincerely hope that you're wrong about that,j. von hettlingen as the English language is far from my favorite. If there has to be just one language,it should be Spanish as that is the easiest one to learn next to Italian. Like I said before,my personal favorite is however,German.

      April 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  6. Philippe

    Here at NHK world which is a Japanese public broadcaster, some foreign language services had to be eliminated for budgetary reasons, including German, Italian and a few others languages, a few years ago. Middle-East, African (including French), Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and Asian sections are still going strong with a mix of short-wave broadcasting, Internet and podcasts. I would add in answer to some comments that one the main purposes of such services is not to entertain listeners from Europe or America or help them learn those languages, but to inform people and provide them with more info than their governments can or want to provide them.

    April 19, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Reply
  7. LuvBBC

    The BBC should not cut its Hindi broadcast. It's the lifeline to millions of information hungry rural Indians. The BBC itself accepts that its Hindi Service has 11 million weekly listeners. To save just £300,000 abandoning so many followers will be an insane act. Do not forget that due to the BBC and its audience in foreign lands Britain has a soft power status around the world.

    April 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Reply
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