Category: World Service
Main press release
BBC World Service is to launch a television news and information service in the Arabic language for the Middle East as part of a wide ranging restructure of the international broadcaster, it was announced today (Tuesday 25 October).
It will be the first publicly funded international television service launched by the BBC.
It marks a fundamental change for BBC World Service which has led the world with its international radio broadcasting for over 70 years; and latterly developed as a key online news provider.
BBC World Service is currently the best-known and most respected voice in international radio broadcasting with 149 million weekly listeners and over 20 million monthly unique online users.
The new Arabic language television service is part of a wide-ranging package of proposals aimed at maintaining and enhancing BBC World Service's pre-eminent position and impact in an emerging multi-media age.
The proposals include:
increased investment in developing New Media in the area of interactivity and video news reporting; initially concentrating in markets such as South America, Russia, South Asia and the Middle East
increased funding for more FM radio distribution globally
extra marketing to maximise new investment
plans to modernise overseas bureaux in the top priority markets
exploring further television services on a partnership basis.
The planned investments add up to £30m by 2008.
The funding for the new initiatives will come through reprioritising BBC World Service's existing grant-in-aid funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (the grant for 2005/6 is £239m - see Notes to Editors for full details of funding) and a vigorous programme of efficiencies.
As part of the reprioritisation, the World Service has announced it will close 10 language services.
BBC broadcasts in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai languages will cease by March 2006.
The services closing cover either European countries that are current EU members or are actively in discussions about membership; or services with little local impact.
All the countries will continue to be served by other BBC Global News division services such as BBC World Service radio in English, BBC World television, and BBC News Online (bbcnews.com).
The changes follow a ''root and branch' strategic review of BBC World Service.
BBC World Service Director Nigel Chapman said: "The changes add up to the biggest transformation of BBC World Service that has been undertaken - and one of the most far-reaching - since the BBC began international broadcasting more than 70 years ago.
"Whilst the mix of services has to evolve as the world changes, the overall core aims of the BBC World Service will remain the same: to provide quality news and information that people trust, which stands out for its independence, authority and objectivity; and to be an open forum for global debate.
"Our new services on television and in new media will be judged by those values just as their distinguished predecessors have been.
"BBC World Service is already the most successful, trusted and respected voice in the Middle East with more than 60 years experience of broadcasting in the Arabic language on radio, and more recently and successfully, online.
"The BBC Arabic Television Service will build on this legacy by offering trusted and accurate news with an international agenda.
"It would mean the BBC will be the only major broadcaster who will provide a tri-media service in Arabic to the Middle East - using TV, radio and online for sharing views and perspectives across the region and the wider world.
"Our research suggests there is strong demand for an Arabic Television service from the BBC in the Middle East."
Speaking about closing the 10 BBC language services and their distinguished history, Nigel Chapman said: "Many of the European services being closed had their roots in the Second World War and have served their audiences well right through the Cold War years.
"But Europe has changed, fundamentally, since the early Nineties. Now the countries to which these languages are broadcast are members of the EU, or are likely to join soon.
"There has been a huge change in the media scene with many new services opening up which subscribe to similar values as the BBC. BBC audiences are declining in many markets as they discover these new national and local services.
"The contribution of all staff in the BBC language services in these areas has been immense.
"It is acknowledged that their presence has contributed to the building of freedoms now enjoyed by their citizens. We believe this will be a lasting legacy."
Summing up, Nigel Chapman said: "We believe the proposed changes will enable BBC World Service to maintain and build on its pre-eminent position as the world's leading international broadcaster in the multi-media age for years to come."
The changes have been approved by the BBC Board of Governors.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jack Straw, has also given his approval as he is required to do under the terms of BBC World Service's agreement with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
They have also arisen after extensive discussions inside the BBC World Service. More than 250 staff have taken part in strategy sessions to help formulate them over the spring and summer of 2005.