Wednesday 29 February 2012

Happy Birthday World Service

The BBC World Service is 80 years old today.  I have very fond memories of listening to the World Service on a crackly short-wave radio in the 1980s and 1990s in Dubai and Oman.  When the Lilliulero theme tune played a little piece of home entered the room.  The news was the main attraction, of course; not only news from home, but more importantly the world news.

In many parts of the world, sadly including the U.A.E. and Oman, the local press and media are heavily government controlled and can't be relied on to tell the truth.  During the first Gulf War my family and I were living in Oman.  Ironically, reporting of what was happening was in inverse proportion to proximity to the action.  In Europe and the USA you may have had graphic images of death and destruction nightly on television, but we had only some very restrained and highly questionable newspaper reports.  For many people BBC World Service radio was the one reliable source of uncensored news.  That is not to say that the World Service is immune from manipulation of the facts by interested parties, just that I believe they are not deliberately biased and do not knowingly report propaganda and untruths.

But in this world of 24 hour rolling news and the Internet is the World Service not now a old fashioned relic?  To judge from their global audience of 225 million the answer is a resounding no.  It's interesting, but not surprising, that BBC World Service audience numbers for Iran have recently increased by 80%.

So happy Birthday World Service, and many happy returns.