Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report


Supplementary Memorandum submitted by the BBC World Service


  The Central Asia Unit of BBC World Service Monitoring was set up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1994 to improve coverage of the five former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The unit covers both the media of the countries and external sources, notably a service of Iranian radio broadcasting to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which has good access to factions not normally publicised by the media of those countries. In April 1998, the unit assumed responsibility for Afghanistan, and it monitors Taleban and opposition radio broadcasts.

  The unit has a local monitoring staff of 19, who translate from all the languages of the region: Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek, Persian, Dari and Pashto. They are supported by three English-speaking editors, who edit their copy, give guidance on selection and processing and provide ongoing training to improve their knowledge of English and awareness of customer requirements. There are also 10 support staff.

  The unit covers the traditional range of sources: press, news agencies, TV and radio. Subject to improvements in communications, it plans to develop Internet monitoring. By country, the unit covers:

    —  Afghanistan: 2 Taleban radios—from Kabul and the northern provincial centre of Mazar-e Sharif, 1 anti-Taleban radio from northeastern Takhar Province

    —  Iran: radio from Mashhad in Persian, Pashto, Dari and Uzbek for Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; radio from Gorgan in Turkmen for Turkmenistan

    —  Kazakhstan: 2 national TVs, 1 national radio, 1 agency, major national press

    —  Kyrgyzstan: 1 national TV (audio only, by remote receiver), 1 national radio, 1 agency, major national press, regional press from Osh Region, bordering on Uzbekistan

    —  Tajikistan: 1 national TV (by remote receiver), 2 national radios, 2 agencies (1 state-run, 1 private), major press from the capital, Dushanbe, and the northern regional centre of Khujand

    —  Turkmenistan: 1 national TV (by remote receiver), 1 national radio, 1 agency, major national press

    —  Uzbekistan: 3 national TVs, 2 national radios, major national press, regional press from the sensitive eastern Fergana Valley region.

  In addition to transcripts (approximately 30 per day), the unit produces a weekly summary of events in each of the countries covered. All material is sent to Monitoring headquarters at Caversham Park, where it is made available to customers in the wider BBC and in the UK and US governments. The unit also provides its output directly to local consumers—the BBC World Service office and the UK and US embassies in Tashkent.

  The unit also prepares a weekly video compilation tape, which is provided via Caversham to the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other customers. It has also made a start on providing audio actuality, a service which it is hoped will grow as telecommunications connections improve.

  Later this year, technical surveys are planned which it is hoped will enable the unit to develop coverage of the western Chinese province of Xinjiang and to improve audibility of sources in Afghanistan.

June 1999

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