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Annual Review 2005/06
Director's Introduction

A year of change, achievement and innovation

'The Global Audience figure reached an all-time record of 163 million listeners.'

It was a year of major achievements and innovation: a record-breaking audience figure; a step change in our interactive services; and the biggest strategic shift in priorities in BBC World Service’s 70-year history. These welcome developments took place against a backdrop of ever more rapid technological change and the emergence of powerful and often divisive global forces. Our journalism was both sure-footed and insightful especially when exploring global changes, which cross continents and unite the interest and curiosity of our audiences.Through the quality of our programmes – and their impact – we enhanced our reputation as the world’s leading international broadcaster.

The global weekly radio audience figure reached a record 163 million listeners, an increase of 10 million on the previous high recorded in 2001.There were particularly large rises in key African markets such as Nigeria, up 3.6 million to over 23 million, Tanzania, up 2.7 million to almost 13 million, and Kenya, up 1.5 million to six million. Audiences also grew significantly in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, although they fell back in Bangladesh, Egypt and Pakistan.

The audience figure includes the first national survey in Burma, which gave us a weekly reach of 23.1% with 7.1 million listeners. Increased survey coverage of Nepal, also added 2.6 million listeners. Nepal and Burma are both countries starved of independent media. Globally, the short-wave total is at its highest level for three years and still accounts for two out of three BBC World Service listeners. Audiences held up well in markets such as rural Africa and India, where there is little or no opportunity to listen to FM-quality sound. But FM is indispensable in urban areas, where the investment we have made over the past five years is delivering growing audiences amongst opinion formers. Our programmes are now available on FM in 150 capital cities, up from 145 a year ago.

Success is not measured solely by the size of our audiences. What they think about BBC World Service matters, too. It is particularly pleasing to see how our programmes command the highest scores for reputation, trust and objectivity in most markets when compared with our international competitors. BBC World Service scores higher for trust than other leading international broadcasters in almost all our key markets. It is a similar story for objectivity and relevance.

New media also contributed a record performance. In March 2006 the number of unique users of the BBC’s internationalfacing news online sites totalled over 32 million and page impressions reached almost 500 million. Both figures were up more than 50% in 12 months, far outstripping targets. Equally important was the way BBC World Service’s interactive programmes and online sites have become a forum for debate between people of many different languages and cultures. Our investment in interactive technology made it possible to process higher volumes of traffic during periods of intense international controversy, such as the row over publication of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. New interactive programmes and online sites such as World Have Your Say and Africa Have Your Say are becoming a first choice when people want to take part in a global conversation about issues and events in the news.

Online access cannot be taken for granted, however. China still blocks many news websites, including the BBC’s, and Iran began blocking for the first time in January 2006, depriving many Iranians of a trusted source of independent information at a time of growing international tension.

'The transformation of BBC World Service, which we announced in October, is one of the most far-reaching in its 70-year history.'

Far-Reaching Strategic Changes
The realignment of BBC World Service to focus more extensively on audience needs in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world is one of the most far reaching in its 70-year history.

The strategy includes plans to launch an Arabic television service in 2007, a crucial step to enable us to remain successful in a market where television is becoming the preferred medium for news and information. In addition, we shall be increasing investment in our interactive services, radio distribution via FM, in overseas news bureaux and more effective marketing.

These new developments cannot be funded through efficiency savings alone. In 2005, we decided to close services in ten languages – Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai.The decision was based on recent political and media changes in Europe, which have lessened the need for these European languages, and the relatively low market impact of the Kazakh and Thai services. But, inevitably, the closures were very difficult, especially for the staff directly affected.We said goodbye to many highly professional colleagues as these closures were implemented during the year. I went to the Prague farewell for the BBC Czech Service in January; the gratitude and thanks expressed for 66 years of broadcasts made it a powerful and moving occasion, and all of us at BBC World Service echo those sentiments, in relation to all the ten services.

Elsewhere, our broadcasting teams face severe operational difficulties in a number of countries. Reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan remains challenging and dangerous. Central Asia is increasingly volatile.We had to close our Uzbek newsgathering operation in Tashkent, and in Tajikistan we had difficulties in renewing our licence for FM broadcasts. In the aftermath of the South Asian earthquake, Pakistan’s regulators took BBC Urdu off our FM partner stations, although part of the service is now being rebroadcast. In Nigeria, our largest partner is still being prevented from broadcasting our news programmes; happily, the audiences there have rediscovered the value of their short-wave radios.

Editorially, the Who Runs Your World? season on global power was the most ambitious themed season ever undertaken by the BBC’s Global News Division, and Fuelling the Future tackled the major issue of energy supplies. Together with the special coverage of countries in the news, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, ‘big picture’ seasons like this help people to make sense of an increasingly complex world. A special series, Return to Sarajevo, presented by Allan Little, won the Sony Gold award in the News Feature category. It is such journalistic ambition which makes BBC World Service stand out on the dial in crowded radio markets.

We opened a new bureau in Jakarta, and put in place plans to revamp our newsgathering offices in Delhi and Islamabad. Roadshows in the Middle East, Uganda, Pakistan and India helped to reignite interest in the BBC among target audiences.

Both editorially and in terms of impact, 2005/06 was a very strong year and I want to thank all our staff and contributors for this. But major challenges remain. It will require skill to build on this record-breaking performance at a time when consumer choice is expanding in many markets, but at different speeds. It will be vital to spot new trends early and then make difficult choices about investments.We also have to make sure the values which shape our journalism and programme making – accuracy, impartiality and independence – continue to shine through in all we do.

Then I believe BBC World Service will be in a strong position to build on all these achievements in the future.

Nigel Chapman (signature)

Nigel Chapman
BBC World Service

Survivors wait for relief at a makeshift camp in Poonch, following the earthquake that destroyed large parts of Indian and Pakistani Kashmir Ali Khalil Thejeil, a porter, was injured following a bomb blast in Baghdad in July A car bomb outside a Shiite Muslim mosque in Baghdad, one of two that killed 21 people on 23 March 2006
BBC - Many voices, one world
Director's overview
Many voices, one world
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