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 You are in: Front Page > About Us > Annual Review
Homepage annual reveiw Chairman's introduction A year in review
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Director's overview
Building for the future in a changing world
 
Radio audiences are at record levels, internet investment is paying strong dividends and FM expansion is ahead of target. But BBC World Service must sustain the pace of development if it is to continue competing successfully in fast-changing markets across the world.
 
This year's record audience figure of 153 million weekly listeners, our largest audience ever, represents a tremendous vote of confidence in the World Service from listeners – just as the 3.8% real-terms growth in funding over the next three years is important recognition by the British Government of our importance and impact.
 

Mark Byford
The welcome Government Spending Review 2000 settlement provides an extra £64 million over the three years 2001-2004, enabling us to launch a crucial development programme, supported by our own efficiency savings. However, while celebrating the year's achievements in this review, it is right to strike a note of caution.
 
Online traffic to the World Service and World News sites grew 62% to 39.3 million monthly page impressions by March 2001.
 
Competition continues to intensify across the world, led by deregulation and an explosion in the number of new radio and television stations. In the battle for listeners, it will be tough to maintain our recent growth.
 
Our global audience has increased by two million listeners following a comprehensive programme of independent audience research surveys carried out in 29 countries. Gains were seen in Nigeria, Kenya and Saudi Arabia. The strong performance across Africa and the Middle East was the foundation for overall audience growth. However, audience losses were recorded in Russia and Pakistan.
 
We achieved our target of being present on FM in 120 capital cities of the world. This represents 62% of the world total. The FM capability is critical in highly competitive urban markets and much of our FM presence is through rebroadcasting partnerships with local stations. Our aim is to be present on FM in 70% of all capital cities by the end of 2003/04.
 
Our internet growth is surpassing expectations. Online traffic to the World Service and World News sites grew 62% to 39.3 million monthly page impressions by March 2001. All 43 language services now provide audio online, and we have introduced major interactive sites in Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish as well as English. In Arabic alone, monthly page impressions have increased from one million to nearly four million in a year.
 
These internet services complement our radio offer and are connecting the world in new and sometimes surprising ways. When I was in Sydney recently, I met a cab driver who was listening to our English programmes being rebroadcast via ABC in his car. A Somali exile, he told me that he and his friends now gather at his flat every evening to listen to the BBC Somali service online.
 
A strong future for the World Service is something that matters deeply, above all to our 153 million listeners – and, as I am constantly reminded, that includes all kinds of people.
 
In all markets, our role is to complement national and local media, always placing the emphasis on high quality, independence and impartiality and the authority and expertise of our journalism.
 
Creatively this was an impressive year, with many successful and inspiring series. We broke new ground with our landmark coverage of the international drugs trade, AIDS, and human rights, bringing together the resources of English and other language services both on radio and the internet. We strengthened business news. Our biggest coverage ever of the Olympic Games led a strong year for sport.
 
Throughout the year, our news programmes provided outstanding coverage of key news events such as the fall of President Milosevic, the collapse of the Middle East peace process, unrest in Indonesia, conflicts in West Africa, the US presidential race, the Indian earthquake and issues of EU enlargement and global warming. Once again the dedication of our journalists in the field has been unflinching. We deplore the intimidation and violence some have suffered. The death of Mayilvaganam Nimalarajan, a reporter for our Tamil and Sinhala services, attacked in his home in Jaffna, is a matter of deep regret and sorrow.
 
Last April we relaunched our English service. In addition to the new provision of eight separate English programme streams to eight time zones, a modernised programme schedule offers increased flexibility to react to breaking news and more tailored schedules for different parts of the world. The new level of 42 million weekly listeners represents the English service’s highest ever audience.
 
BBC Monitoring, based at Caversham near Reading, achieved high customer satisfaction ratings, expanding its electronic delivery and coverage capability. Monitoring the world's media in more than 150 languages across more than 100 countries, it, too, achieved a good Spending Review outcome enabling it to develop services for its key stakeholders, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the World Service.
 
In London, World Service staff are preparing for the move from our historic home at Bush House to the BBC's new global broadcasting centre at Portland Place in 2006/07. As we draw up detailed plans to join domestic radio and BBC news at the centre, there is a keen sense of looking forward.
 
A strong future for the World Service is something that matters deeply, above all to our 153 million listeners – and, as I am constantly reminded, that includes all kinds of people. When I visited Malawi recently for the launch of our new FM transmissions in Lilongwe and Blantyre, I was delighted to hear directly from President Bakili Muluzi that he listens regularly to our programmes Network Africa and Focus on Africa. Later, Dick Zango Mhone, a boatman on the Shire River who's been listening since he was a child, told me one of the best things that has happened to him this year is that, at last, he can hear us on FM.

Signiture
Mark Byford
Director, BBC World Service
 
 
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