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Citing budget cuts BBC & Voice of America cut back shortwave broadcasts

State broadcasters around the world have been cutting back on their shortwave transmissions over the last few years, typically attributing the reductions to a combination of budget challenges and declining listenership. With the start of April and the beginning of the 2nd quarter the Voice of America and BBC just trimmed shortwave broadcasts.

Voice of America logoCiting budget cuts brought on by the sequestration, the VOA is curtailing shortwave and medium wave (AM) broadcasts to Albania, Georgia, Iran and Latin America, as well as English language broadcasts to the Middle East and Afghanistan.This cutback will allow the VOA to avoid furloughs of staff members. The VOA says that listeners in these regions will still be able to receive broadcasts by affiliate stations, satellite and online streams. At the same time, radio broadcasts will continue to serve regions with large audiences or that are not easily reached by technologies other than radio.

Also responding to budget cuts, the BBC’s World Service English schedule over shortwave and AM are reduced to a minimum of six hours a day. As part of the change, a new program called The Newsroom will replace World Briefing, and the Outlook program will be extended to an hour-long format.

BBC World Service logoMore significantly, the Beeb is ending all Arabic broadcasts over shortwave, which the service estimates will reduce its audience by 800,000 listeners. Arabic language broadcasts will continue over a network of FM stations, a television channel and the BBC Arabic website.

While it is true that an increasing number of global listeners can now listen to internet broadcasts, it is also the case that shortwave broadcasts are much less susceptible to interference by government censorship or utility outages that more easily affect satellite television and internet service. I’m certain that the management of state broadcasters do not take these service reductions lightly, and it is good to see that they continue to prioritize broadcasts to regions that are particularly dependent on radio, whether due to development or political challenges.

Nevertheless, radio fans should be wary of the overall equivocation between broadcast radio and internet that these changes represent. Even as broadband via wi-fi and mobile data becomes more ubiquitous, there still aren’t any hand-cranked cell towers.

Related: Dutch government to slash Radio Netherlands Worldwide, focus on regions needing “free speech”

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2 Responses to Citing budget cuts BBC & Voice of America cut back shortwave broadcasts

  1. Ken W. English April 7, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Sad to think that we are calling the people in these countries “poor and unfortunate”, yet we assume that they all have free and unrestricted access to internet and mobile broadband.
    Many Americans don’t even have that kind of access to media.

    A $25 shortwave radio, and a hunk of wire, give access to shortwave radio.
    I think they require a credit card for broadband.
    Oh, and permission from your government.

  2. justin June 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Shortwave will have to make a comeback in the future as Internet is not free, and can be easily restricted by tyrant governments around the world. These networks such as BBC, VOA, and others will either provide via shortwave as they always had in the past, or will simply fade out of existence.

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