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BBC is shutting down East European services, to launch Arabic TV channel

BBC is shutting down East European services, to launch Arabic TV channel

LONDON: The BBC World Service is shutting down 10 of its foreign language broadcasts, mostly targeting the Eastern European countries, clearly indicating it is sensitive to the changed post-cold war world scenario. At one time, people in countries in the erstwhile Soviet bloc relied on BBC service for reliable and objective information.

The company also announced that it is launching an Arabic language television news and information service in the Middle East.

BBC’s World Service is broadcast in 43 languages and has a weekly listnership of more than 149 million. The company’s director of World Service Nigel Chapman said the mix of services has to evolve as the world changes.

BBC said the Arabic Television Service will be broadcast 12 hours a day across the Middle East, beginning 2007. It will be freely available through a satellite or cable TV connection. The service has correspondents in practically every Middle East country and the radio broadcasts now draw 12 million listeners each week. It also has an Arabic online service, BBCArabic.com.

The new service, estimated to cost 19 million pounds a year, will be funded by the British foreign office, which is spending 239 million pounds in 2005 for the World Service. The service will be in direct competition with al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news service.

Chapman said listener figures have fallen steadily in Europe and many of the services being closed were more relevant to the cold war than the current geo-political scenario.

The services to be cancelled are broadcasts in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai. There will be loss of 218 jobs in the language services and 18 in other areas. The Arabic service will create 201 jobs, the company said.

Meanwhile, journalist and broadcasting unions criticised the move, saying it undermined the World Service’s claim to be a truly global operation and ignored evidence that some of the affected countries were far from thriving democracies.

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