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BBC to Cut Off 1.2 Million Listeners on July 1

Decision to End Shortwave Broadcasts to North America, Australia and New Zealand Greatly Restricts Access to World Service

Listener Coalition And Web Site Formed to Urge Reconsideration


An international coalition of radio listeners has been formed to urge the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to reconsider an announced decision to end shortwave radio broadcasts of the World Service to North America and the South Pacific on July 1. The Coalition to Save the BBC World Service disputes BBC claims that listeners are migrating in large numbers to alternative media such as FM radio, the Internet and satellite to hear the World Service, and abandoning shortwave radio in the process. The coalition's web site is at www.savebbc.org.

Shortwave broadcasts -- transmitted on frequencies above the standard AM broadcast band, around the world -- are the only reliable way to avoid political boundaries and problems of stations and satellites limiting rebroadcast programs on domestic AM and FM frequencies.

The BBC's own research indicates that there are at least 1.2 million listeners in North America who listen to the shortwave broadcasts of the World Service every week.

While 228 FM stations in the US and 25 in Canada do carry some BBC World Service content, most of these stations are low powered with limited reach. According to a survey of stations carrying BBC programming in the US and Canada published by the Coalition on its web site, most of these stations broadcast only a few short BBC news bulletins daily or carry a one hour news magazine produced, only in part, by the BBC. The few stations that air a wider selection of programs do so only between midnight and 6 am, when most listeners are asleep. Huge gaps exist in the coverage, leaving important locations like Florida south of Orlando and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US and Montreal in Canada with no coverage at all. In contrast, the shortwave broadcasts to be discontinued on July 1 are easily receivable on low cost portable radios everywhere on the continent.

"There certainly is an added value in having the World Service available via FM, the Internet and eventually satellite," said a coalition spokesman. "However, right now, none of these--separately or together--provide the extent, ease and affordability of access, or the portability, that shortwave radio provides for many listeners. The equation that the BBC apparently feels it has achieved in North America is a myth," said John Figliozzi, a writer on international broadcasting and one of the Coalition's members.

The Coalition asserts that the end result on July 1 will be greatly reduced availability of the World Service to all listeners in the affected areas. "There will be almost a complete cutoff to the many listeners who cannot receive FM stations rebroadcasting the World Service and the many who still do not have access to the Internet", said Sheldon Harvey, author of the survey and host of a program about radio and communications for a local station in Montreal. "We understand the BBC's need to efficiently deploy its resources," he added. "But this decision only hurts the World Service and hurts its loyal listeners."

"The World Service is a truly unique international public radio station that produces and broadcasts, around the clock, a huge range of programs covering arts, science, music, sports, business, entertainment, culture, and religion," explained Richard Cuff, also a writer on international broadcasting and a Coalition member. "They define excellence in broadcasting. But none of these programs have an appreciable presence on local stations and, for all intents and purposes, will be unavailable once shortwave broadcasts to North America cease."

The BBC claims listeners can hear them over the Internet after the cutoff. The Coalition feels this is inadequate. Ralph Brandi, Coalition webmaster and a professional webmaster by day, explained. "The technical infrastructure of the net as it stands today is ill-suited to serve the kind of listenership that BBC World Service gets on shortwave. Listening to a radio station over the net requires an individual connection for each listener. This limits the potential audience to mere thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands if you continue to throw money, hardware and bandwidth at the problem. Furthermore, the Internet is relatively expensive for the user and offers limited, if any, portability. Simply put, the Internet is not radio. It does not serve as a suitable replacement."

The Coalition urges listeners and others concerned about the continued accessibility of the BBC World Service to protest this decision by writing directly to the BBC World Service and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Her Majesty's Government in London, or to British Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions in the affected regions. The Coalition's web site, which has continuously updated information and the names and addresses of officials and contacts, can be found at http://www.savebbc.org/.

For More Information Contact:

United States

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: jfiglio1@nycap.rr.com or jfiglio@hotmail.com
Richard Cuff
Phone: +1 (610) 509-2873
Fax: +1 (707) 313-2458
E-mail: rdcuff@sprintmail.com


Sheldon Harvey, President, Canadian Int. DX Club
Phone: +1 (450) 671-3773, during business hours, 1300-2100 UT/0900-1700 ET.
E-mail: cidxclub@yahoo.com
Mailing address: P.O. Box 67063-Lemoyne, St. Lambert, Quebec J4R 2T8 CANADA