(Contact information at end.)
For Immediate Release Friday, June 28, 2001:
Coalition Calls for Immediate Moratorium on BBC World Service Transmission Cuts
The Coalition to Save the BBC World Service today called on the BBC to halt moves to cease shortwave transmissions to North America and the Pacific. "In light of the expression of concern by members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the opposition of prominent former executives of the World Service, it is unconscionable for the BBC to proceed with these moves," said Coalition spokesman Sheldon Harvey.
Former managing director of the World Service John Tusa, in an article in UK newspaper The Independent, applauded the BBC's efforts regarding the Internet, but went on to say that "assumptions about the migration of listeners from old to new forms of communication are excessively hopeful. It is far from clear that we are even near the crossover point where as many people listen via the internet and the new media as listen to short wave. The dangers of cutting off short wave is that you lose listeners while failing to pick up listeners on the new media."
Graham Mytton, the respected former director of the World Service's audience research department, in a message posted publicly to the Coalition's web site at www.savebbc.org, echoed Tusa's sentiments. "A listener who listens by direct means is 'worth' far more in terms of commitment and attachment to the BBC and what it provides," than those who "happen to catch bits of the BBC via a local FM or AM station" says Mr. Mytton.
1.2 million listeners in North America and hundreds of thousands in the Pacific agree with Mr. Tusa and Mr. Mytton. So, importantly, does the American research firm Arbitron, which released a study in late June that showed that the crossover point Mr. Tusa mentioned is in fact not here yet.
In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Tom Leonard reported serious concern in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. A spokesman there was quoted as saying that the BBC was of course free to use their money how they saw fit "as long as it meets our shared objectives." The spokesman further confirmed that "ministers would be discussing the corporation's decision to end short-wave transmissions to North America and Australasia at their next quarterly meeting with BBC executives in August."
In light of bruising encounters with the Foreign Affairs Committee in the past, in 1999 and early 2001, the Coalition believes it is in the BBC's best interest to halt the cessation of broadcasts immediately and until the committee has had a chance to investigate the move.
"Mr. Byford has had an uncomfortable time in front of the Committee in the past, but we believe that his next appearance in August will surpass those," said Coalition spokesman John Figliozzi. "The BBC's strategy of stonewalling criticism by repeating the same discredited assertions has served the BBC poorly, making it appear to be callous and indifferent to its listeners."
Richard Cuff of the Coalition continued, "Over the past 68 years, The BBC World Service has built up a sterling reputation for objectivity and fairness in its coverage of world affairs. This decision, justified using sloppy statistical comparisons and selective use of facts, has significantly harmed the credibiity of the World Service, and has managed to undo much of this 68-year reputation in less than two months."
"It's not too late to stop the BBC from shooting itself in the foot," said Coalition webmaster Ralph Brandi, "but time is running short and Mr. Byford seems bound and determined to pull the trigger. Unfortunately, the victims in this drive-by shooting are the audience."
Transmissions to North America and the Pacific are currently scheduled to end on July 1.
For More Information Contact:
- John Figliozzi
- Phone-Days (1215-2130 UT/0815-1730ET) +1 (518) 473-5264 (has voice mail, leave message)
- Phone-Evenings (2230-0200 UT/1830-2200ET) +1 (518) 383-0796 (has answering machine)
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Richard Cuff
- Phone-Days (0830-1730ET/1230-2130UTC) +1 610 320 6111 x3123 (voice mail available)
- Phone-Evenings (1900-2200ET/2300-0200UTC) +1 610 706 4593 (answering machine available)
- Fax: +1 (707) 313-2458
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sheldon Harvey, President, Canadian Int. DX Club
- Phone: +1 (450) 671-3773, during business hours, 1300-2100 UT/0900-1700 ET.
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Mailing address: P.O. Box 67063-Lemoyne, St. Lambert, Quebec J4R 2T8 CANADA