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After 72 years, the Caribbean Service says goodbye

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Rajan Datar | 16:58 UK time, Friday, 25 March 2011

It’s been a momentous and for some people heartbreaking few weeks as the Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian languages as well as the English for the Caribbean regional service made their final broadcasts.

They have gone as part of the World Service’s plans to meet the 16 percent savings target required by the UK Government’s Spending Review.

A discussion on the BBC Caribbean Service between presenter John Arlott and author C.L.R. James, taken in 1964.

The Caribbean service has along and distinguished history dating back to the start of the Second World War.

To say goodbye to this much loved institution I met its head Debbie Ransome.

Debbie joined the World Service in London in 1991, joining from Radio Trinidad – she brought with her some of her favourite moments, and I asked her what she feels has been the Caribbean services biggest contribution.

The Caribbean was one of five language services, which have said their final goodbyes. We also spoke to the heads of the other four the Macedonian service; the Serbia service; the Albanian service and the Portuguese in Africa Service.

It’s another closure which is still dominating our postbag – listeners’ reactions in Europe to the ending of the 648 Medium Wave service demonstrate the extent to which the service has been a part of their lives.

Listeners are also exploring other ways to receive the World Service in place of Medium Wave including internet radio and satellite reception.

We at Over To You are not immune to the cuts and from next week we will be shorter, at just under ten minutes, but we will still be packing just as powerful a punch, we hope.

And that depends on you telling us what you think about the World Service, so keep the emails and phone calls coming.

Rajan Datar is the presenter of Over To You.

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).


  • Comment number 1.

    Dear World Service makers,
    I want to thank everybody of the World Service for the past decades of superbe radio making !
    In this crazy world you all made me believe there is still hope for human kind.
    Now it is different.
    It is unbelievable what is happening at the BBC.
    The greatest mistake the UK ever made.
    I wish all program makers and contributers the very very best !!
    Today I will gently put all my little radio's in the garbage .
    Like a funeral of some kind.
    Goodbye my 648 .
    Poor England !

  • Comment number 2.

    Well, I was about to make a similar comment but then with a suggestion too. We can understand that it must be financially to hard for a single country to host the worldservice that indeed the entire world relies on for timely, objective, neutral, in depth information on what happens anywhere in the world, and that then in a few dozens of languages.
    True, as alternative funding, publicity would be totally unaccepable as it would kill your neutrality, and make the broadcasts boring. Letting the British public pay for it, is unfair, and will eventually lead to further cuts.

    Like many others, I would like to remind you of the fact that there are many listeners worldwide, that would be willing to contribute financially, in exchange of the gurantee that the BBC worldserivce continues, rather than being forced to stop some very crucial services (like the one to Russia, earlier this week). You could still keep your neutrality, by limiting the amount a single person could give, or by limiting the amount a single country, based on its population, could give (and give the surplus to a charity). I am sure that among the millions of listeners there would be a good number willing to support the BBC worldservice. To prevent that small amounts evaporate in costs related to international transfers, you can set up accounts in a great number of countries. Sure, there will be countries were the authorities would go after people that donate to the BBC worldservice, you can warn people for this, or accept anonymous gifts up to a small amount.

    A world service should be funded worldwide, by its listeners, like a national station is to be funded nationallly. I am convinced it would be even BETTER for your neutrality to have worldwide funding, rather than having your funding depend on the politicians of a country that is today rather democratic, but has also no guarantee to stay like that till the end of time. if you disagree with that, I must almost conclude that you are underestimating your own importance !

  • Comment number 3.

    I listened to the bitter end, well the switch off. Appositely the last programme broadcast on 648 was this one, Over To You. Then a brief trailer, a short take from Lily Bolero and the pips followed by nothing. Not exactly momentous. All we where left with was the hiss of the airwaves and faint noises from other stations.

    Funding by listeners? If only. There's been a lot have suggested it. I posted the figure it costs to run 648 but have there been any response? No way.

  • Comment number 4.

    The switch-off of BBC World Service broadcasting on 648 Medium Wave has not gone unnoticed in the Netherlands, along with the stopping of “Europe Today”. It is a great shame that the World Service invests in creating excellent programmes, but then is forced to economise on the last step of actually broadcasting the programming to an appreciative audience!
    Although fortunately the material is still available here if connected to cable or Internet, I will very much miss listening to the well-balanced news bulletins and factual programmes up until now always available on medium wave at any location, particularly useful when travelling by car or bicycle.
    I do hope that in the near future the BBC will be able to re-commence broadcasting on medium wave to N. E. Europe and Russia, thus continuing to provide always-available, world-class news coverage, and thereby an appreciation of British values in general.

  • Comment number 5.

    As you say J Lewis the passing has not gone unnoticed in the Netherlands and WS is available on the Internet & Cable. However UPC, the cable in Amsterdam, broadcast the global (ie Internet) schedule so no way of receiving the schedule for the European region. I don't know where you are and if it's the same but it's frustrating.

    And wholehearedly agree with you about not being able to listen when out and about (including on the bike). Even limitations at home like taking the radio into the shower with one!


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