Written evidence from Rajesh Joshi, Rajesh
Priyadarshi and Marianne Landzettel |
IMPACT OF THE PLANS TO END BBC WORLD SERVICE
This submission was written by Rajesh Joshi, Special
Correspondent/Presenter, BBC Hindi Service, Delhi.
Rajesh Priyadarshi, Desk Editor, Hindi Service, London.
Marianne Landzettel, South Asia Desk Editor, BBC World Service,
1. Under the current proposals the BBC Hindi
Service will cease to broadcast on short-wave from 1 April. The
BBC programmes in Hindi have at least 10 million dedicated listeners,
most of them in rural and often very poor areas, who will lose
an essential, if not their only source of unbiased, accurate information,
especially in critical situations.
2. The BBC Hindi Service is cost effective. It
produces two-and-a-half hours of programmes a day. Hindi short-wave
transmission costs £130,000 p.a. that is just over half the
annual salary of a BBC director of global news.
3. The BBC World Service in Hindi is a way for
Britain to talk to more than 10 million Indians in their own language.
Closing this effective channel of communication will come at a
time when the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, states that
the trade and commercial relations between Britain and India are
of paramount importance.
4. Short-wave radio cannot be censored by Indian
regulatory authorities. At its best the World Service can challenge
corruption, expose human rights abuses and promote democratic
values. In India only the BBC Hindi Service on short wave cannot
be taken off air by the governmenteven at times of crisis.
5. FM broadcasts cannot replace BBC Hindi on
short-wave because the Indian government does not permit news
and current affairs programmes by international broadcasters on
6. Computer use cannot replace BBC Hindi on short-wave:
Most of the 10 million listeners in India live in rural and often
remote areas and have no regular access to a computer. Computers
in rural areasto the extent they do existusually
are very old and the internet can only be accessed through extremely
slow dial up connections, far too slow to access websites with
pictures and completely unsuitable for audio or video content.
Who listens to BBC Hindi short-wave radio?
7. Millions in India listen to (sometimes) crackly
short-wave broadcasts for one good reason: It's the only non-commercial,
balanced, global and unregulated broadcast available in India.
Politicians and other opinion leaders value this quality. India's
main opposition party's spokesman, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, called
the closure "unfortunate" because the service has "major
impact on India's politics". (Asian Age, 27 January 2011)
8. People living in remote areas or in troubled regions
see BBC Hindi radio as nothing less then a lifeline service and
since the announcement of the cut of the service was made they
have told us so:
Eg Anil from Faridabad: "There may be various television
channels who telecast live pictures but the BBC Hindi coverage
is different. I will give you an example: when an Indian airplane
was hijacked in 1999 and taken to Kandahar, all channels covered
it but I still remember it that we got the true picture from the
BBC Hindi. I wonder what will happen to us from 1 April!"
9. In Kashmir or in Maoist controlled jungles of
Indian states like Chattisgarh army officers and rebels
listen to the BBC Hindi service (not All India Radio) as the only
trustworthy source of information. ("After dinner, I unzip
my sleeping bag. It's a strange intrusive sound, the big zip.
Someone puts on the radio. BBC Hindi service. The Church
of England has withdrawn its funds from Vedanta's Niyamgiri project,
citing environmental degradation and rights violations of the
Dongria Kondh tribe. I can hear cowbells, snuffling, shuffling,
and cattle-farting. All's well with the world. My eyes close."
Quote from Arundhati Roy's piece in Outlook magazine: 29 March
Many Indians remember that the Hindi service more
than once has been a life linefor example during communal
riots in 1991-92 during the Ayodhya dispute: "We were living
in the Walled City, the whole town was under curfew, and had been
handed over to the army. BBC was our only link with the world
outside" (A listener quoted in Outlook magazine: 14 Feb 2011
10. Millions of Indians connect to Britain and
its values through the BBC Hindi Service. The influence that the
BBC enjoys across India is deeply rooted and long-standing. In
news and current affairs the BBC is the biggest and most respected
name in India. The BBC Hindi Service continues to play a crucial
role in reinforcing the value of the BBC as a brand as it has
for generations of Indians. Their trust in the Hindi service and
loyalty to it lets them naturally switch to BBC English (on all
its platforms) once they are ready to do so. Or as a popular saying
has it: Even those who do not know the A B C know the B B C.
11. The closure of short-wave transmission means
that 10 million people lose access to an essential source of unbiased,
accurate information, especially in critical situations for a
saving of just £600,000.
12. Closure means "no news" for the
millions who depended on the short-wave radio service.
- People in remote areas or conflict zones where
there is no electricity.
- People in rural areas where power cuts can last
for hours and even days: A listener says he travels 16 km to the
nearest town to get his mobile phone recharged as there is no
electricity in his village in Rajasthan (BBC India Bol (interactive
phone-in programme on 01.02.2011); short-wave receivers work with
readily available batteries.
- Poor people, who come together in groups to listen
to the BBC Hindi programmes via a short-wave radio that is someone's
prized possession. (Outlook link see aboveand
- Illiterate people to whom websites are of little
- Young people in rural India, going to school
or college, listen to BBC Hindi in order to prepare for competitive
exams. They are the future leaders of India.
BBC services that are only accessible via the internet
are not an option for any of the above groups.
13. The closure betrays dedicated listeners,
runs counter to geopolitical trends, and is destroying trust in
the BBC as a British brand in an important country like India.
BBC's Delhi office has been flooded with letters and inundated
with phone calls of listeners expressing their deep disappointment
and often desperation.
14. The Hindi service has a wide network of reporters
across India. Their output is vital to all BBC output and
- They file news stories.
- They verify wire copyso nothing goes on
air in the World Service that has not been properly sourced.
- They provide actuality, pictures and videos.
- Most of them are bi-lingual and file in English
- They facilitate interviews.
- And if there is "breaking news" from
India, chances are that a journalist in the Hindi service has
filed the first piece of copy ahead of the wire services.
It will be felt across the BBC output when this precious
source of information is lost or greatly diminished. In particular
at a time when news agencies are reducing their network of stringers
and are only operating offices in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
If the BBC in future has little news about and from
India it's not because it's not happening!
15. The decision to close down Hindi short-wave
broadcasts is perceived by decision makers in India as waning
of British influencein India and around the world. The
MP Chandan Mitra is one of those who voiced this opinion in a
newspaper article (http://www.dailypioneer.com/314004/Along-with-an-era-an-illusion-too-ends.html).
After Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to India to directly
appeal to Indian businesses, the cuts mean that a vital line of
communication is severed and the BBC as a valued and trusted British
brand is irreversibly damaged.
16. With the closure of BBC Hindi radio on short-wave,
Britain stands to lose goodwill among millions of people in India,
earned over more than six decades through impartiality and fairness.
17. We urge the government to think again about
the damaging proposals inflicted on the BBC World Service and
the disproportionate effect this has on BBC Hindi: the loss of
10 million listeners for savings of a mere £600,000.
Foreign Secretary William Hague announced he is allocating
£58.5 million of Foreign Office spending in the coming year
"for the support of democratic values, human rights and British
diplomatic influence overseas". Perhaps some of this money
could be used to keep the BBC Hindi Service on air.
8 February 2011