Comments posted to savebbc.org by Graham Mytton, former Head of BBC World Service Audience Research

Graham Mytton, well-respected former longtime head of the Audience Research department of the BBC World Service, posted the following message to the comments section of www.savebbc.org, and we thought it was worth bringing to your attention:


This decision of the BBC is very regrettable. It means that for the first time in almost 70 years of international broadcasting the BBC is excluding whole areas of the world on direct broadcasts. I can underastand the thinking that goes behind it. The Internet is costing a lot of money for the reason that we all know very well. The more that the service is used, the more bandwidth that has to be provided and the more it costs. FM and other rebroadcasts are also used as a reason, but as we all know, these are very partial and not really the same as listening to the whole output via the BBC's own shortwave and other services. A listener who listens to direct services on shortwave, medium wave, satellite or (yes) the Internet is a much more committed listener than one who happens to catch bits of the BBC via a local FM or AM station. The audience figures produced fro the US, Canada, Australia etc need to be seen in this context. A listener who listens by direct means is "worth" far more in terms of commitment and attachment to the BBC and what it provides.

If I had still been at the BBC I would have opposed this move vehemently. I believe it is misguided and wrong. However there are some factors that do need to be taken into account. As I understand it, services are still likely to be readily available to listeners in all affected regions. When we did the famous "Can You Hear me" excercise about ten years ago, we found that a very large number of listeners in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific were very often nusing frequencies actually intended for other regions of the world. Many were using European, Asian, African and other frequencies. This will probably still be the case.

However, I do urge everyone to keep up the argument. The BBC is very responsive to feedback and takes it very seriously. Write to the BBC, to the local ambassador or high commissioner. And explain the qualities of shortwave - universal availability and all the rest. I actually do not think that it is too late and I very much hope, even at this late stage that the decision can be modified if not entirely reversed.

Graham Mytton

Head of BBC World Service Audience Research 1982 to 1996 and Controller of Marketing 1996 to 1998