Monday, October 06, 2008
BBC Indian Ocean Relay Celebrates
Today if you happen to be in the Seychelles, you're invited to an open day being organised at the BBC's East African relay station. They're 20 years old this month. Interesting to read the discussions in Hansard that happened in the UK House of Lords in 1984. This goes back to the days well before the place was built. Despite the discussion, I would have thought that the BBC's Lesotho and Ascension Island relay stations were providing good coverage into apartheid South Africa. South Africa was indeed busy with an extensive VHF (sic)- FM radio service for all languages, so as to encourage listeners to switch off shortwave and flood the market with cheap FM radios.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, the British Broadcasting Corporation's signal to the Republic of South Africa is less strong than we would wish. But we are satisfied that on the whole those who wish to listen to the British Broadcasting Corporation in the republic are able to do so without excessive difficulty. Steps are being taken to improve reception in East Africa, which should also lead to some improvement in South Africa.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer, which I think is disappointing. Would he not agree that the Republic of South Africa should be a priority target for the BBC not only because of the differences with the South African Government that we have and that the South African press have, but also because in South Africa there are very many people in all the communities who are sympathetic towards, and are anxious to have news of, this country? Would it not be possible to resume the broadcasting in Afrikaans?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, as I think the noble Lord knows, the BBC's former Afrikaans service was terminated in 1957. I have to say that there are no plans for its reintroduction. It is worth noting that broadcasts such as this on the short-wave band require the listener to have a short-wave receiver and that, generally speaking, the people in South Africa appear to prefer the VHS service of the local system.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, the noble Lord said that reception in Southern Africa is not as good as the Government themselves would wish, but that some improvement has been made. Can he tell the House precisely what steps are being taken towards improved reception and what are the obstacles in its way, in view of the very strong arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill —arguments which are shared, I believe, by the great majority of noble Lords in this House to the effect that South Africa occasionally should hear the truth from the BBC.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I believe that they can hear the BBC signals even now; but we are in negotiation with the Government of the Seychelles to build a relay station on those islands, and that relay station, though intended primarily for East Africa, will bring benefits as far south as South Africa.
Looks like they didn't really understand what was going on then.
Launched in October 1988, and currently run on behalf of BBC World Service by VT Communications, the station transmits BBC World Service programmes on shortwave to an estimated audience of up to nine million listeners across East Africa. The BBC Indian Ocean relay station in the Seychelles broadcasts BBC World Service in a range of languages including the BBC's English-language output for Africa as well as programmes in Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Somali and French.
The Indian Ocean Relay is probably one of the most important SW stations in the VTC chain of shortwave broadcast station, because the areas its targets do not have very developed broadcasting systems. For me, shortwave is still the medium of last resort, but in this case it is more than justified. Must be nice to work there :-)