Written evidence submitted by BBC World
In the Balkans there is an increased
need for informed analysis of the impact of changepolitical,
economic and socialcovering both international and domestic
news, particularly in countries where the media is still comparatively
tightly controlled by the state.
The BBC World Service's role remains
largely, but not solely, that of a "trusted guide",
not just to global events but also to the politics of this complex
The BBC seeks to reach its audience
through English programmes on radio, television and the Internet.
However in countries where use of English is not yet high, the
audience is reached primarily through the radio offer in the vernacular
The BBC World Service provides programmes
in English, Albanian, Croatian, Macedonian and Serbian to the
Radio content is based on a core
of news and current affairs programmes, enhanced by strong regional
journalism delivering expertise and analysis. A major theme of
the output is reporting and explaining wider European issues,
such as migration, economic development and harmonisation of laws
within EU regulations, and setting them in a global context.
The region aims to get closer to
its audiences. Some European languages are spoken in a number
of countries. Each community has different needs. The World Service
responds by providing special programming.
We actively target opinion formers
and decision makers, both for English and vernacular languages,
and amongst those groups we are performing better than our international
The aim is to provide the key audience
of cosmopolitan and aspirant audience with authoritative and reliable
news and current affairs coverage of the region, and the wider
European and international agenda.
None of the countries to which the
services are broadcast had a press rated as free by the 2004 Freedom
House Press Freedom rankings, all are ranked as partly free. Public
broadcasting in Albania and Serbia Montenegro remains state run.
Domestic media in the region is not
able to provide in-depth coverage of international and European
events, that BBC World Service access to the BBC range of newsgathering
correspondents worldwide allows it to do.
In the past year the World Service
in all its languages has provided its audience with extensive
coverage of events in Iraq and the EU accession and constitution
The World Service's European analysts
are widely used to explain, clarify and demystify European issues:
Gabriel Partos for coverage of the Balkans and Jan Repa on Central
Europe. And the complex issues of the EU have been explained to
listeners by Oana Lungescu, the dedicated Regional Correspondent
All of countries served by the language
services, except for Serbia Montenegro, have forces serving in
either Iraq of Afghanistan. Croatia is fully engaged in the process
of joining the EU and Macedonia has formally applied for membership.
This year promises to be a significant
one for the region with local elections in both Kosovo and Serbia,
and possible a general election in the latter and a referendum
on the decentralisation bill in Macedonia. The services plan extensive
coverage of these events as well as key broader European issues
eg the continued trials at The Hague and the decision over Turkish
membership of the EU.
On the international agenda as well
as News and Current Affairs coverage for the US Elections in English
the Albanian, Croatian and Serbian Services will all be reporting
from Washington and elsewhere in the US.
During times of conflict in the Balkans,
domestic media were used as propaganda tools by authorities; however
some countries are now beginning to experience a period of relative
freedom from political censorship. The media market in the Balkans
has generally developed, although at varying rates.
There have been some positive developments
towards the advancement of a fair media environment. In some places,
bias and censorship appear to be decreasing and the media is freer
than in the past. In places such as Serbia and Albania a large
number of pirate radio and TV stations have emerged; often offering
entertainment programming. However this creates very variable
standards of news reporting, as well as regulatory chaos. This
in turn can create an environment in which it is difficult for
the BBC to acquire licences for its own FM frequencies.
Radio listening throughout the Balkan
region is generally very high, with a mix of state and commercial
radio. Music stations are popular, although many broadcast no
news. Traditionally, demand for international news was very weak
prior to the regional ethnic crises in the 1990s, although international
events led broadcasters to increase their output in this region.
Nevertheless, direct international radio listening remains a niche
The internet is not highly developed
in this region, mainly due to low in-home PC/telephone line access,
and has been developing more slowly than expected, although many
young people have access via schools, universities and Internet
cafes. Mobile telephony is growing fast as a potential medium.
Throughout Europe, the BBC's radio
output is complemented by a strong online offer. All language
sections run online sites: some, including Albanian, are regularly
updated with news whereas others concentrate on background, analysis
and special programmes. The English pages (at bbcnews.com/europe)
are highly developed, with a range of in-depth information and
analysis with significant input from the regional teams.
In some areas, such as Kosovo and
Albania, whose populations are among the youngest in Europe, we
aim to attract the younger listener as part of our audience mixthe
aspirant who seeks information to be connected with the latest
developments in international politics, finance, arts and sciences.
For instance, the Albanian Service
targets audiences in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia; while all
programmes cover three countries and beyond, each is tilted towards
the needs of a specific audience: the dawn programme focuses mainly
on Albania (with a live link to Tirana) and the lunch programme
targets mainly Kosovo/Macedonia (with live links to Pristina/Skopje).
OUTPUT: BBC AND
Recent activities of many international
broadcasters in Europe have been characterised by budget cuts
and subsequent reductions in language services.
|Language||Weekly hours of output
|| (TV 7.5)||(S. Slavic)*
* Mixed language programming
In terms of hours broadcast, the World Service
has a strong and competitive offer against its international competitors.
In an increasingly competitive market, all World
Service languages focus on a strong offer at key listening times,
morning and evening drive time.
In addition to the languages above, VoA, DW and
RFE all carry programming in Bosnian. BBC World Service closed
its programmes for Bosnia (2 x 15 mins daily) as they had little
VoA has daily television programmes in both Albanian
and Serbian. DW has a weekly EU-orientated magazine programme
in Serbian, and broadcasts special television programmes on European
issues through a co-operation with Albanian TV.
The media market continues to be fragmented along ethnic
lines. There is a plethora of outlets with over 180 TV and radio
stations serving a population of 5 million. Most independent outlets
concentrate on music and light entertainment.
The US-supported international broadcasters and Deutsche
Welle broadcast in the Bosnian language on both radio and television
and they are all reasonably successful.
The BBC has never broadcast in the Bosnian language. In 2003,
the BBC also took the decision to stop producing programmes in
Croatian specifically targeted at a Bosnian audience. At that
time, the BBC Croatian Service produced 2x15 minutes daily aimed
at Bosnia; the weekly reach of those programmes was around 1%.
BBC Serbian and general Croatian programmes are available
through a network of re-broadcasters in Bosnia.
BBC WORLD SERVICE:
All language sections run online sites bringing
background information and audio. Some have a limited news service.
The European Online team and Specialist Unit work
with language sections to produce in-house specials, to adapt
News Online features for European pages and to produce online
picture galleries. Stories have included the Serbian elections.
We have also increased interactivityall
languages run interactive forums.
Our English audio is also available streamed via
Yahoo!, and dozens of public radio stations link directly to the
BBC WORLD SERVICE
Working closely with the World Service Trust in
the Balkans, we have an active role in providing programming in
the vernacular languages which help bringing Europe closer to
countries which are not on the EU Accession first wave list, eg
We will continue to develop journalist training
programmes to assist strengthening of media organisations, thus
helping to develop civic society.
The World Service targets opinion formers and
decision makers across Europe, and we are performing strongly
against our main international competitors in the region.
In many of these areaswe have a significant
overall reach of more than 5%.
In Albania we reach 8% weekly via Tirana 103.9
FM. We are rebroadcast via over 20 stations including Regional
The Albanian Service has reached an entirely new
audience through its programme Auditoriuma version of Question
Time, which has not only been broadcast on Radio but also on Television
by the country's top commercial channel Top TV. The programme
was recorded in six cities across the country. It's the first
time Albanian politicians have participated in such a format taking
questions of which they did not have prior notice.
In Kosovo we have a healthy reach of over 12%
via Prishtina 98.6 FM and rebroadcasting agreements via two national
networks and local stations in the Albanian language and via a
station in Mitrovica in the Serbian language.
The language services have had considerable success
in the past year in reaching out to new audiences, the Croatian
and Serbian services have secured FM distribution in Zagreb and
In the Croatian case this is via Otvotreni radio
the country's largest commercial national network with over 12
In the Serbian case it is via a new programme
offer, particularly a new drivetime programme, on a rented FM
frequency in Belgrade. Its morning current affairs programme is
broadcast by the capital's leading independent radio station B92
and its network of 40 stations.
The reach in Serbia at just under 5% is a respectable
performance given the fragmentation of the market and the ferocity
of international competition.
Strong partnerships in Macedonia have been maintained.
In Macedonian with the National Radio and 20 local radio stations
which gains a reach of 12%. In Albanian via National radio and
Radio Tetovo which claims a reach of 9%. And in English via Classic
FM in Skopje for a small but important number of English speaking
As well as the BBC's radio and online offers,
BBC World television is broadcast throughout the region via satellite,
and can be accessed by around 60.5 million homes.
Although timely and relevant content is key to
retaining audiences, the delivery mix is also of major importance.
A strong FM and medium wave presence is vital, and developing
partnerships with local broadcasters is a key component of our
We are strengthening our business development
expertise to enable us to take full advantage of opportunities
as they arise, especially those which occur as a result of relationships
which BBC World television has established.
The new BBC World Service and Global News Division
has given us the opportunity to focus closely on achieving a complementary
radio, television and online offer throughout the region.
In 2001, DW made efforts to improve its radio
presence in the Balkans. The German Ministry for Economic Co-operation
and Development, in conjunction with the Stability Pact for South-eastern
Europe provided the Macedonian government with
750,000 to refurbish the country's most important medium wave
broadcasting service, which transmits DW radio programmes in exchange.
DW's Macedonian service expanded to two hours
daily in March 2001. DW also launched transmissions in Kosovo
in October of the same year, on its own VHF relay.
Radio Free Europe
RFE/RL announced budget cuts in February 2003
which will eventually lead to closure of a number of European
language services including Croatian, but not any other Balkan
RFE/RL started broadcasting in Macedonian in September
The need to maintain a good range of distribution
methods both through re-broadcasters and through a network of
our own FM frequencies. The media market in the Balkans is very
The challenges posed by Government intervention
and official regulation For example, under political pressure,
Macedonian National Radio dropped the BBC for a time three years
ago at the height of the inter-communal conflict. However, BBC
programmes were later re-instated and this must be seen as a testament
to their popularity, balance and objectivity.
The role of television may play in undermining
radio audiences. In markets where our competitors have developed
a television offer in the vernacular languages (for example VoA
in Albanian and Serbian) they are performing particularly strongly.
The speed of new media development.
The World Service invested new funds to the region in 2000
and is confident that that investment will safeguard our current
strong position. We have no plans to make any significant changes.
BBC World Service