Archives for April 2011

Responding to listeners disappointed by new BBC World Service website

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Rajan Datar | 10:25 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011

The new look for the BBC World Service website has caught the attention of a number of you.

When a change is made to an established format, the new style can take a while to become familiar - so we wanted to know what was the thinking behind the changes that have been made.

There has been a lot of comment about the website in the Over to You postbag and also in comments to the blog which went into details about the changes that have been made.

Although we were unable to answer in detail all of the questions and comments, we asked one listener, Piet Boon from the Netherlands, to elaborate on why he feels the changes will not benefit the listeners.

Among the points he made was the observation that he uses the website to find out what is new and interesting on the World Service, and he feels that is what he missing most from the revamped site.

Piet feels that as the World Service is not a service which he would listen to 24 hours a day, rather he listens to specific programmes, so it is important for him to know about those programmes - and he feels the new website makes that more difficult.

Other listeners remarked on the difficulty in navigating through the website.

So we asked Kelly Shepherd, Managing Editor of Future Media at the World Service, to tell us more about the thinking behind the website.

Were the changes researched in advance for instance?

According to online polling, Kelly explained, listeners made it clear to the BBC that they wanted to be able to listen again to programmes, they wanted to be able to find the schedules and download the programmes.

However a listener noted that the headlines have gone from the home page - Kelly explained the site is working with the family of BBC World Service and BBC sites, including so that content can be placed in areas that audiences which may not know the titles will find them.

Kelly also explained that the programme index is now the front page, and programmes can be found by A-Z, or by genre, but whereas in the past listeners may have gone, for instance, to an arts genre, now they will go to a wider entertainment news on BBC

The content hasn't been lost, simply placed elsewhere.

Finally, another word on the subject of slang and colloquial language which we covered last week - 'colloquialisms are only the tip of the iceberg', according to a listener who contacted us from New Zealand, and who had several more comments on 'sins' of journalists in general and BBC journalists in particular.

Listen to the podcast for his detailed case. In the meantime, keep your emails, texts and tweets 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. Broadcast times can be found by clicking here.


Slang on the World Service - can they pull it off?

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Rajan Datar | 16:54 UK time, Friday, 15 April 2011

Do you think colloquial English is out of order on the World Service? It’s easy to have a little verbal fun about this - are you chilled about World Service presenters being down with using slang? Are you sick to the back teeth (let alone as a parrot) of hearing clichés?

The question of slang being used by presenters was raised by an interesting email from listener Peter O’Leary from Dublin. Peter is a keen listener to the World Service which he describes as ‘unique and invaluable to radio listeners around the world’. But he had this to say about slang…

“When interviewing persons whose first language is not English, some of your news staff have an unhelpful habit of using clichés and slang expressions which are not going to be understood by the interviewee.
The most recent incident I heard, which has prompted me to write, was on when one of your female interviewers asked an Italian news journalist about Berlusconi’s impending court appearance. She asked the Italian if he thought that Berlusconi would plead innocent and, if so, ‘would he be able to pull it off’.
The poor Italian hadn’t a clue about what she meant and I shudder to think what literal translation may have been flashing through his mind.
I have since talked with several of my friends about this aspect of using slang when we are speaking English to those whose first language is not English.
We have all agreed that we would, without thinking, ensure that no clichés or slang are used and we would automatically select our wordings very carefully to ensure that we would be understood.
I realise that George Bernard Shaw has stated that ‘the best English is spoken in Dublin’ and that we all can’t be perfect (!) but a small word of advice in the attentive ears of your interviewers mightn’t go astray.”

What do you think? Would you be over the moon, well happy, if slang and clichés were banished from the airways?

Keep your emails, calls and tweets coming to Over to You.

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).


Russian Service closure on medium wave - your reactions

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Rajan Datar | 15:19 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

This week we have your views on news on the World Service, exploring the options for listeners to the Russian service as a result of the changes to the way the World Service is being transmitted.

Hilary Milne contacted us on the subject:

"I was able to have the radio in the kitchen and listen to BBC World Service in Russian for part of the day and in English for the rest on medium wave. However since the Russian language service was pulled there is nothing on the frequency at all. It is dead and the kitchen quiet. Why did the English language broadcasting stop as well? I am unable to access World Service now as I can't find it on my shortwave radio and the computer in the kitchen is not very convenient. I really miss the programmes so where can I find them."

We invited Sarah Gibson, the head of the BBC's Russian Service to discuss Hilary's points and she explained that listening through medium wave frequency in Moscow is no longer possible as that frequency has closed.

So that means the internet on the computer is the remaining option for listening - likewise in Russia the only way to access in Russia is through the internet.

However, interestingly, the majority of listening was through the website already as the internet is very important in Russia.

Turning to the Middle East, over the last few weeks of the Arab Spring there has been a lot of discussion of the use of social media.

Syria is now attracting attention - at first Twitter was banned, but now pro-government commentators as well as the protestors are using it.

Abdallah al-Salmi from BBC Monitoring came into the Over to You studio to explain how he has been tracking the use of social media since the protests began.

He has noticed how the twitterati have used Twitter to mobilize protestors and how there are also many on the government side using Twitter in a counter media campaign. Abdallah said that the function of Twitter in Syria is about information, as the Syrian authorities did not hide that protests took place.

It is one more example of how new media is at the heart of events that are shaping that part of the world.

Until next week, keep your emails, calls - and tweets - 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).

A new look for the World Service on the web

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Dave Lee | 13:03 UK time, Thursday, 7 April 2011

UPDATE: Thank you for all of your comments. I am sorry that many of you are disappointed with the changes.

Your views will be taken into account when we look at future versions of the site.

Kelly Shephard, Managing Editor, BBC World Service Future Media.

Editor's note: Kelly is on this week's edition of Over To You discussing the changes.


Regular visitors to will notice some big, exciting changes have happened to the website.

The new design will make it easier to keep track of what's going on and this applies not just to our award-winning global news coverage, but also to the in-depth documentaries and feature programmes that tell you not just what's happening, but why.

But despite the change in look and feel, our agenda remains the same.

Here we will be showcasing the best of BBC World Service content - and using text, audio and video to bring you the highlights from our programmes.

Links to our schedules and frequencies will ensure that you never miss a programme.
Meanwhile, social media links enable you to share and engage with the day's global news and regular blogs such as World Have Your Say, remain committed to engaging the audience in a global conversation.

We're looking forward to hearing your comments on the changes. You can get in touch with us by commenting on this post, or talking to us on Twitter and Facebook.

Sifting through the postbag this week

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Rajan Datar | 15:29 UK time, Friday, 1 April 2011

This week we’ve been hearing from you about a wide range of subjects from podcasts to changes in the programmes in terms of scheduling.

The postbag reflects the service as you hear it – so for some of you, like Simone Storti from Italy, it is the podcasts which have prompted an email. Simone points out that the podcasts are a great way to improve her English while listening to interesting issues – while listening on the bus on the way to university. Simone’s query was why aren’t all the programmes podcast.

For others it is the changes made to programmes which catch their attention.
Philip McMinn Mitchell from Kampala in Uganda contacted us to ask why the Newshour was paired with the UK Radio Five Live – and offered a wide range of comments about why he was not happy with the result.

Of course, our mailbox is still receiving plenty of your comments about what you can no longer hear, and one of your emails caught our attention. Manuel del Cerro Aparicio in Brussels writes:

“Last Sunday was the first morning in which my radio-alarm did not wake me up with BBC voices. I missed them. It was also the first day in which I could not listen to BBC news and opinions while shaving or when driving somewhere in the Low Countries. It is the end of a relationship which began decades ago while playing with the dial of an old radio in The Netherlands and which now leaves me with three orphan radio-sets. Maybe we could help the Chancellor by sending him all those useless radio-sets.”

However, this week, in our new shorter format, we also wanted to give you a wider perspective on a news event which has dominated the world’s news agenda for three weeks – the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

We found out how the local community radio stations in the region affected have been reacting to what has happened and the role that radio has played in these terrible events.

We’d like to hear your reactions to what you hear on the World Service, so please keep your 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).


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