A new era of media freedom in Zimbabwe?
By Penny Vine
Living in Britain - during an election campaign as we are now - I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like only to have a monopoly state-run radio and television with no outlet for independent voices. But in Zimbabwe - there is only state-run broadcasting.
A Zimbabwe Media Commission has been appointed and last month declared its intention to promote and protect the media - and of course - the BBC is now allowed to send its reporters openly into the country. Does this mean a new era of media freedom may be getting closer? Not according to Rajan's guest this week, Gerry Jackson. She's the station manager and founder of SW Radio Africa, a UK-based radio station staffed by exiled Zimbabwean journalists. She thinks no real progress will be made as long as Robert Mugabe remains in power.
And radio listeners in Somalia have also had a raw deal this week. Not only have many stations stopped broadcasting music on their airwaves because an Islamist group declared songs un-Islamic, but already, five of the BBC's FM relays in Southern Somalia have been closed down by a different Islamist group, Al-Shabab. We have a response from the BBC World Service's Head of Africa region Jerry Timmins on the show.
Also on the programme this week, we hear from Guy Thornton - a listener in the Netherlands - who had queries about the World Service website. He wasn't the only one to spot that our podcast hadn't been available last weekend. Apologies! It's there now.
We spoke to Susie Goldring, the Editor of the World Service website, who responded to Guy and told us about plans to improve the schedules and documentaries sections of the website. Below she explains more about the forthcoming changes and improvements.
Improving World Service Programme Information Online By Susie Goldring
Over the last few months, we've been looking at redeveloping the How and When to Listen Index on the World Service website. In particular, we want to make the information as clear as possible - so that it's easier for listeners to find out when a particular programme is on and how they can listen to it.
We know that it's difficult for listeners to find out when a programme is being broadcast and the scheduling information itself can be quite disorientating. The World Service schedules are dependent both on the way you choose to listen - whether you are listening via FM radio, DAB radio, online or satellite for instance - and where you are listening from. So, a user wanting to find out what programmes are being broadcast in Accra via FM radio for example, will be offered a different schedule to someone wanting to find out when a programme is on in Brussels, via satellite.
We're going to be launching the updated How and When to Listen Index at the end of May, which will make programme schedule information clearer to the listener, as well as more information about the different ways you can listen to the World Service from where you are.
Another development we are currently working on is redesigning our Documentaries Index. We often receive emails from listeners saying that they only heard part of a documentary on-air and want to listen to it again online. Our documentaries are currently listed by their title in alphabetical order - however with names such as Shed Men and Return to Trebizond - it means that if you don't know the title of the documentary, it can prove challenging to find it again online. We're now going to be tagging and grouping our documentaries by topics so you are able to find them more easily under issues like 'health', 'politics' and 'religion' - this will also make them easier to find across the BBC website as a whole.
Finally I'm pleased to say that the World Service website has received a Webby nomination for our podcast service. With over five million downloads per month, the World Service English and language podcasts are some of the most popular across the BBC, so it's great to see this reflected by the industry's most prestigious award. If you're a fan of our podcasts you too can vote via the Webbys site.
Penny Vine is the producer 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).