Record audience for BBC Arabic at 77

Nadim Swalha, BBC Arabic, 1970 Music Shop was a popular show presented by Nadim Swalha, shown here in 1970

The Arabic Service celebrates its 77th birthday on Thursday and is reaching more people than at any other time in its history.

Launched in 1938, the latest figures show that its weekly audience has grown by nearly three-quarters since the Arab Spring in 2010.

Audience numbers have risen by 68%, from 21.6m to 36.2m, in just under five years.

Tarik Kafala, head of BBC Arabic, calls it an 'exciting time', adding that the service is 'developing in ways that will make us more relevant and essential than ever, on all platforms'.

Nuha Batchoon interviewing Egyptian writer Gathibya Sidqi for Women's Corner in 1960 Before Women Today, there was Women's Corner on BBC Arabic in 1960

Plans include launching a more dynamic radio schedule to mark its anniversary, with one half-hour news programme focusing on women making headlines in the Middle East and around the world. Called Women Today, it will be a mix of reports, interviews and interactive debate.

Another daily show, Midnight Talk, will provide a platform for younger listeners in the Middle East to debate social and political issues that are relevant to them. It will be informal in tone and include live interviews and music.

Talking about the new schedule, which will be broadcast from Cairo and London, Kafala adds: 'We're celebrating radio, the medium on which our reputation is built. The investment in new programmes and a new schedule shows our deep commitment to radio and our listeners, the heart and foundation of BBC Arabic.'

A programme delving into the language service's archive and another focusing on sport will also launch, while the YouTube channel will be overhauled.

  • BBC Arabic will mark its anniversary by hosting a concert of classical Arabic music on Saturday January 31 at Broadcasting House, where the service first launched 77 years ago.

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