Bye bye, BBC World Service

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So now BBC World Service has shut down its shortwave service to Europe and north Africa. The end of an era. I wonder when they’ll cut off the remaining 100 million shortwave listeners in the rest of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
The story in the Guardian quoted Simon Spanswick, the chief executive of the Association for International Broadcasting, as saying, “Everybody now has to use different ways to engage listeners. Nobody in the developed world listens on noisy, crackly shortwave anymore.”
Oh yeah? I do.
BBC World Service transmissions to North America ended some time ago. Now apparently Europe has been deemed a “highly developed marketplace” in which listeners can access the BBC in “a variety of ways, including FM, satellite and online,” the Guardian story said.
In addition to this old Nordmende (that needs a tube replaced), I have a small collection of portable shortwave radios. It’s not always convenient to fire up the ol’ laptop and dial up the CBC or BBC. I’ve used my little shortwaves to try to pull in a broadcast from Radio Canada International when I’ve been away from home, or to find the BBC World Service when I’ve wanted to hear an English-language newscast. It just isn’t the same, at the end of a hard day of sightseeing or travelling, to curl up with a laptop under the covers and listen to the radio. I don’t always travel with a laptop anyway.
Radio should be listened to on the radio, dammit.

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2 thoughts on “Bye bye, BBC World Service

  1. My phrase perhaps should have been “very few people in the developed world use shortwave”. Unfortunately, economic rigours mean that every international broadcaster has to look at the way it spends its stakeholders’ cash, and when the shortwave audience in the developed world is so small as to be unmeasureable, it means that a broadcaster has to look at how best to reach an audience. Walk down any street in Toronto, Paris, Warsaw, New York or London and ask 50 people if they use a short wave radio, and you’ll be lucky to find one person who does! That’s the reality facing broadcasters in the increasingly mobile, on-demand, user-centric world.But I have a certain nostalgia for short wave – I started listening back in the 1970s and it got me into broadcasting, for which I’ll always be grateful. And my voice was carried over shortwave right round the world when I presented on BBC World Service. But nothing can be preserved in aspic forever!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Simon. You’re right, of course, and I left the harsh economic realities out of my post. I was feeling nostalgic for shortwave. I have some nice little radios… which will wind up in the box that contains my typewriters and rotary dial telephone, as well as skate keys and high-buttoned shoes…

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