Written evidence from Ian Mitchell
- The BBC should not abandon medium and short wave
transmissions in the way proposed.
- The BBC should retain a skeleton broadcast news
service in the languages it proposes to drop.
I was a journalist employed by BBC Radio Newsthe
domestic national newsroomfrom 1967 until 1991 and was
a BBC foreign correspondent in the 1970s. After retirement I was
a consultant at the World Service newsroom. More recently I have
worked for the Central Office of Information / Government News
1. News provided by the BBC World Service comes
into its own at times of crisisthe recent events in the
Arab world are an excellent example. It is at these times that
the BBC's reputation for accuracy and impartiality is most valued
by listeners and viewers.
2. It is also at these times that governments
in crisis areas cut links to the internet, block mobile phones
and suspend relays of BBC programmes on local FM radio stations.
3. This leaves only direct broadcasting on short
wave, medium wave or satellite as the means of reaching the audience.
4. In times of turmoil or when people are on
the move, satellite reception can become impracticable. All that
is then left is direct terrestial transmission on short or medium
5. In the poorer areas of the world, the only
affordable means of receiving the BBC for many people is in any
case a portable radio. (Even in the Australian state of Queensland
during the recent weather emergency television viewers were advised
to be ready to tune to short wave radio as the only reliable means
of keeping in touch with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's
6. I urge the Committee to ask the BBC not to
abandon medium and short wave transmission in the way that is
proposed but to maintain a skeleton service on these wavelengths.
7. Abandoning foreign language services is a
short-sighted policy. It loses that part of the audience whose
command of English is limited and these listeners and viewers
then turn to rival, less reliable sources. It also disperses a
team with background knowledge of the target area of great value
to the rest of the BBC. More importantly, if the service needs
to be reinstated as a result of sudden political changes in the
target area it will be most difficult to re-constitute within
a reasonable time frame.
8. I urge the committee to ask the BBC to retain
a skeleton broadcast news service in the languages it proposes
to drop so that audiences are not lost permanently. This would
retain the capability of expanding the service in an emergency.
6 February 2011