BBC World Service radio facing major cuts

radio, shortwave radioIt’s been the best source of news to travelers for generations, but now the BBC World Service is facing serious cuts. Five of its 32 language services will disappear completely, many other language services will be limited, and 650 of its workforce of 2,400 will lose their jobs.

Radio is the hardest hit. Services in Azeri, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian will all go. Shortwave broadcasts will cease in Hindi, Indonesian, Kyrgyz, Nepali, Swahili and the Great Lakes service (for Rwanda and Burundi).

While best known in the developing world for its radio service, the BBC World Service also has broadcasts on TV, mobile, and online. Those aren’t immune either, and all services for some languages will go–Macedonian, Albanian, Serbian, English for the Caribbean, and Portuguese for Africa.

The BBC hopes to save £46 million ($73 million) a yea r. It estimates it will lose 30 million weekly listeners.

While wandering in the more remote regions of the globe I’ve always found the World Service a timely and reliable source for breaking news. It warned me of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait while I was excavating an archaeological site in the Israeli countryside, told me of Nixon’s death while I was crossing the border from India into Nepal, and has kept me up-to-date in countless other places. The BBC says it will increase its online presence, but we’re not a fully digital world yet, and in the places I like to go, good old-fashioned radio is still the only reliable means of communication. This is bad news for adventure travelers everywhere.