Commentary

25 October 2012

Dear colleagues

Today we are announcing distribution changes for the World Service as part of Year 3 Comprehensive Spending Review savings. As I said last week, these changes will deliver £4.8m of the required £12m savings that need to be achieved in the final year of Grant-in-Aid funding.

The changes are in line with our overall strategic aim of ensuring that we are able to respond to changing audience needs and invest in the way audiences consume news. In recent years, as alternative means of accessing media have proliferated, short wave audiences have declined. Audiences increasingly rely on medium wave, FM, television and digital media.

This is especially so in the Arabic speaking world, where satellite television is widely available and is complemented by radio services on medium wave, FM as well as the internet. Over the years, we have responded to these changes through our network of FM relays, a 24-hour television channel, and the bbcarabic.com website.

From the end of March 2013, we will implement the following distribution changes:

Short wave

· The English short wave service will continue to all regions, but will be reduced from between seven and 19 hours per day, depending on region, to six hours per day across all regions.

· Arabic short wave to the Middle East will stop. However, in Sudan, where there is a strong need for humanitarian information and limited access to other media, we will continue to provide a short wave service.

Medium wave - Middle East

· The Arabic medium wave service to Syria and Lebanon will continue, but will be reduced from eighteen hours per day to eight hours at peak times.

· The Arabic medium wave service to Egypt will be reduced from 17.5 hours daily to six hours per day. Medium wave to the Gulf States will remain at six hours per day.

· The English medium wave service to Israel, Lebanon and Jordan will be reduced from 16-18 hours daily to four hours per day and will be broadcast on a new frequency.

We estimate that the changes being announced today may result in a loss of up to 2.5 million listeners, an overall loss of 1% of the total Global News audience across all platforms. Any loss of audience is of course regrettable but we are not in a financial position to continue to distribute our services on all frequencies.

As a result of these changes, the shortwave transmitting station in Cyprus, which is managed by Babcock and staffed jointly by them and local Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff, will close with the loss of 26 posts. This site has delivered BBC broadcasts for over 70 years and I?d like to thank staff, past and present, for the service they have given the BBC during these years. Whilst today's distribution changes will not result in any post closures for the BBC, we will of course be working with FCO and Babcock colleagues to assist the team in Cyprus through these changes.

Peter

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