Monday, March 07, 2011

BBC World Service BackTracks on Hindi

The strategy for BBC Hindi radio is becoming clearer today with this announcement.

On 26 January the BBC announced the closure of its news and current affairs radio output in Hindi, as part of the outcome of its Spending Review 2010 settlement. Since the announcement, there has been much public discussion of the potential for retaining some of this service and the BBC has been approached by a number of commercial parties with alternative funding proposals.

In order to explore these proposals further, BBC World Service has decided to retain an evening news and current affairs radio broadcast (1 hour) in Hindi for our Indian audiences for an interim period. This broadcast will be available on all platforms – via SW, online and mobile. If sustainable commercial funding for this service cannot be found during the 2011/12 financial year, we regret that it will then have to close by March 2012.

We're told this language service has a weekly audience of 11 million on shortwave. But is obviously not a politically strategic service. If the UK Foreign office was interested in targeting potentially unstable areas of India, then Hindi language radio on shortwave is not really the way forward. It is the first time I have seen a BBC World service radio service opened up to commercial funding along the lines the BBC World News TV service has tried for years. Will people pay mobile networks to hear BBC Hindi streamed over the phone? Mobile TV and Streaming Radio over the 3G networks have been less than successful in Europe, especially now that the telecom providers are limiting the monthly data allowed. Or perhaps the strategy is to put further pressure on the Indian government to loosen up laws on relaying foreign news broadcasts on FM? India has a huge variety of TV and press. But All India Radio is one of the most disappointing networks on the planet. Totally stuck in a bureaucratic time warp.

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