x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Interrupted broadcast

Loyalty to the BBC World Service endures in many parts of the world. Its diminished reach and budget cuts is lamentable.

Younger fans of the Premier League may not know it, but as recently as the early 1990s, the only way to follow English football in the UAE was through BBC radio's World Service. Supporters tuned in to Saturday Special with Paddy Feeny, getting second half commentary and a full rundown of results.

It wasn't only football streaming the airwaves during those days, either. Step into a taxi in Abu Dhabi and you would more than likely have been listening to the World Service's news bulletins in Arabic, Urdu or English. Decades later, listeners here continue to put their trust in the eloquent, insightful analysis of the World Service.

Which makes this week's announcement that the budget for the service is being cut all the more disappointing. Thirty million listeners around the world will be affected. While the Middle East is not among those slated for a trim, World Service broadcasts to western Europe, Russia, Turkey, India and China are. By axing 650 jobs the BBC aims to save £46m a year (Dhs270 million), or roughly 20 per cent of its annual budget. Other shortwave broadcasts in popular languages like Hindi, Mandarin and Swahili will also come to an end.

Television and the proliferation of the internet mean that fewer people listen to the radio these days. Loyalty to the World Service endures, however, in many parts of the world. Its diminished reach is lamentable.