Friday, March 04, 2005
BBC Prague - how much longer?
The new UK Green Paper on broadcasting is not just about the domestic services. There are some important points in it about the current mission of BBC World Service radio. Whilst there is no doubt that BBC WS is doing pioneering work in English to put British views and values on the global map, many of the other language services are lost in a time warp. They were started during the second world war and seem to have found ways of surviving ever since. A few years back, BBC WS thankfully cut the Radio 648 service to Europe, which was a tri-lingual rag bag in English, German and French....in fact it was the same stuff in all three languages, but it sounded impressive to people who were monolingual. The improved European coverage in English remains a vast improvement....in fact it is worthy of airing on Radio 4.
But the Green Paper hints that there is little justification for many of the language services the BBC STILL runs to Eastern Europe and which are hogging many of the FM frequencies. Take Prague, for instance, where BBC Prague is putting together 5 hours of Czech language material in Prague. Is this really needed now that the Czech Republic is a part of the EU? If so, will Czech radio ever be given equal access to the UK airwaves on FM or perhaps DAB....no way of course. So what might look like a good idea on paper, is starting to look like Empire building in the wrong direction. And BBC World Service still hasn't found the cash for a desperately needed Arabic language TV service.
Time for the BBC to celebrate 60 years of broadcasting to many parts of Eastern Europe and retire. There are other areas where it could have far more of an impact.