Short wave hit by World Service cuts

Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks: cuts reflect audience habits

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Short wave broadcasts of World Service Arabic will end by next April, while the Cyprus short wave relay station will close.

World Service English short wave transmissions will be reduced to six hours a day, with 1.5m listeners likely to be lost as a result. Currently, there are between seven and 19 hours of short wave depending on region.

The distribution changes - which include cuts to medium wave transmissions - are designed to save £4.8m in 2013/14. It's a large chunk of the £12m savings the World Service is targetting in its third phase of cuts as a result of a 16% reduction to its grant-in-aid.

An estimated 3% of the Arabic audience is likely to be lost when the eight hours a day of Arabic short wave in the Middle East is halted. A short wave service will continue in troubled Sudan where there's a 'strong need' for humanitarian information and access to other platforms is limited.

Many Middle East viewers will be able to receive Arabic tv direct from satellite.

Medium wave

Another 1% of the audience will go when Middle East medium wave transmissions are reduced outside peak hours.

The Arabic medium wave service to Syria and Lebanon will be cut from 18 hours a day to eight, while the service to Egypt will drop to six hours from 17.5.

English medium wave to Israel, Lebanon and Jordan will also be slashed from 16-18 hours daily to four.

Cyprus station

The closure of the Cyprus short wave relay station will see the loss of 26 jobs. These are Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Babcock employees who are funded by the World Service.

Peter Horrocks said that the changes reflected listening trends, as audiences increasingly embrace tv, mobiles and the internet over short wave radio.

'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,' he said.

'Short wave audiences are declining as radio audiences come to rely increasingly on medium wave and FM, and there has been a rapid growth of television and digital media.'

The government's 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review set the World Service the target of saving £42m by April 2014. It has already achieved nearly £30m with the loss of five language services and around 480 jobs.

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