Implications of BBC World Service Cuts - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents


Written evidence from Naleen Kumar

My submission is particularly about the Hindi Service of the BBC World Service.

1.  MY SUBMISSION:

  • The Hindi Service has more than ten million shortwave listeners. It costs just £130,000. The World Service is targeting a total saving of approximately £600,000 (which includes savings through post closures) by stopping the Hindi shortwave radio. That means a saving of just about 5 pence per listener. Losing a loyal listener with a very high regard for the British sense objectivity, to save just 5 pence is not a good deal.
  • The World Service has decided to stop the Hindi news audio service for web too. It is very strange decision, as the Hindi Service's website www.bbchindi.com is one of the fastest growing websites in the Bush House. Thousands of people from around the world regularly listen to the Hindi radio via web (on computer and mobile phones).
  • Besides above mentioned ways there is no other medium to provide the Hindi Service news and current affairs radio programmes to listeners in India as the FM radio is not open to non-state broadcasters for news. That means the World Service is pulling out completely from the news and current affairs radio in Hindi. But while announcing the cuts this fact was concealed cleverly. The World Service announced that it was discontinuing the shortwave radio for Hindi. The reality is, they are closing every bit of news and current affairs radio in Hindi.
  • The World Service is ensuring that its India FM operation does not get affected by the cuts. It is strange. Because in India news and current affairs programmes are strictly forbidden to private players (foreign or local) on the FM radios. So it is clear that while the World Service is abandoning more than TEN million Hindi Service shortwave and online listeners, it has decided to continue spending on its non-news radio in India. The World Service's programmes on partner FM radios in India are mainly Bollywood gossip. So where is the recently launched and much publicised "Quality First" initiative of the BBC?
  • In addition to more than TEN million ordinary listeners most of the Hindi speaking parliament members (number in hundreds) too listen to the Hindi Service broadcasts. In fact many of them have written in national media about the need of continuation of the Hindi Service radio. I would like to mention two of them- Mr Mohan Singh and Mr Chandan Mitra, both from the Upper House.
  • The China Radio International and the Radio Russia have recently announced expanding their Hindi language radio operations. It is strange to shut down the World Service's Hindi broadcast in this scenario.
  • The present British government has publicly announced its intension of forging a special relationship with India. So why we are abandoning more than TEN million Hindi Service listeners, who by all account are the goodwill ambassadors for the UK.
  • Many listeners have written and called to us to say that they would be glad to pay any subscription fee to get the BBC Hindi Service radio. One has threatened to kill himself if the Hindi Service stops its news and current affair radio. It only illustrates the hunger for the objective global news coverage which is in very short supply in India.

2.  My Recommendation:

The BBC World Service management should not abandon more than ten million listeners of its Hindi shortwave radio. It would be still using all the broadcasting infrastructure (transmitters, studios etc) to broadcast in the subcontinent English, Urdu, Bangla, Sinhala and Tamil. So why not continue serving the Hindi Service listeners, one of the biggest groups for the whole World Service.

3.  ABOUT MYSELF:

I, Naleen Kumar, work for the Hindi Service of the BBC World Service in its Bush House HQ. Before joining the World Service in 2001, I have been an active listener (writing comments and feedbacks) of its Hindi Service for more than two decades.

11 February 2011


 
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