FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog, March 16, 2009, San Francisco — BBC has recently made some reductions in its Russian-language radio broadcasts, but unlike the Voice of America (VOA), the British public broadcaster did not completely eliminate radio programs to Russia. The termination of VOA radio to Russia, which occurred last July, just 12 days before Russia invaded Georgia, was the decision of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a bipartisan body which manages U.S.-funded international broadcasts.
The BBC World Service decision, although far less drastic than the total termination of on-air VOA radio to Russia, came under severe criticism in the UK. More than 500 people have signed a petition to the Prime Minister asking him to launch a full and independent investigation into the BBC World Service.
The Government has ignored recent calls by MPs from both sides of the House and members of the public for an investigation into the BBC World Service. There are several serious concerns about the way taxpayers’ money is being spent by the BBC.
The government has increased its Grant-in-Aid funding of the BBC World Service by about 20% over the past five years.
Despite this, the BBC axed much of its quality feature and cultural programming in favour of cheap news coverage across the World Service, significantly reduced its funding for Russian broadcasts and is in the process of offshoring South Asian language services “closer to their audiences”, to countries where intimidation of journalists is widespread.
Therefore, we call on the Prime Minister to launch a full and independent investigation into the BBC World Service.
Perhaps in response to such criticism, the BBC World Service has announced last week that it is now enhancing its radio programs to Russia:
Category: World Service
BBC Russian service has introduced a new programme in its newly refreshed radio schedule. From tomorrow, 14 March, live weekend news and current-affairs programme, Pyatiy Etazh (Fifth Floor) will go on air every Saturday and Sunday.
Broadcast at 20.00 Moscow Time (MT) (17.00 GMT) Saturdays and Sundays from the fifth floor of Bush House – the London home of the BBC Russian service for more than 60 years – Pyatiy Etazh is a news and current-affairs programme with a difference.
As well as covering breaking news stories as they happen, the programme offers audiences a fresh view on key events and trends, seen by studio guests from various walks of life. Pyatiy Etazh is a conversation about latest developments in politics and world affairs, culture and sport, and society, with a special focus on British life.
With a different tone to the weekday news and current-affairs programmes on BBC Russian, Pyatiy Etazh aims to create an atmosphere for lively, engaging discussions. Reporters from the BBC Russian team around the world, the wider BBC as well as personalities from different areas of Russian and international life will be invited to take part with their comments and views.
The programme will have regular reviews of British press, and it will have its own webpage on bbcrussian.com where the team will stay in touch with listeners and readers about current and future programmes.
Pyatiy Etazh producer Ben Tobias says: “We want this programme to be a place where interesting conversations happen. We hope to draw out opinions that haven’t been heard before and to shed a new light on stories by looking at them through the eyes of our guests.”
On Sundays there will be regular appearances by author and broadcaster, Zinovy Zinik, known to BBC audiences as the host of the programme Westend.
Zinovy adds: “On Pyatiy Etazh we will put cultural events in the context of politics and life in general, revealing, sometimes invisible, links and connections, and joining lives and developments in stories which, I hope, will engage our audience.”
The introduction of Pyatiy Etazh is part of a wider change in the BBC Russian radio output.
Head of BBC Russian, Sarah Gibson, comments: “In an increasingly competitive environment and with fast-changing audience demands, we have decided to focus our services on what audiences primarily expect from the BBC – high quality news and current affairs, and strong analysis of global events, in whatever area of life they occur.
“But at weekends audiences want something a little different. We also know that they are very interested in British life. I think Pyatiy Etazh will bring audiences the content they expect in a format that they will enjoy.”
In other changes to the BBC Russian radio schedule, the flagship morning weekday news and current affairs programme, Utro na BBC, has been increased by half an hour to three-and-a-half hours each weekday. It now starts at 06.30 MT.
The afternoon weekday drivetime news and current affairs sequence, Vecher na BBC – which includes the hour-long BBSeva hosted by Seva Novgorodsev – will be increased in April by one hour to four hours each day (from 17.00 MT).
In the new schedule, the last hour of this sequence, from 20.00 MT, will include the BBC’s extended interactive programme, Vam Slovo.
Sarah Gibson concludes: “We are excited by these changes and believe that together they will deliver an even better service to our audience in Russia and around the world.”
BBC World Service Publicity
Unlike the British public broadcaster, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors has so far refused all calls from VOA journalists, members of U.S. Congress, and media freedom NGOs to restore live Voice of America radio and TV programs to Russia.