Last month, British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Arabic Radio permanently went
off air after 85 years of broadcasting. The station’s shutdown comes as part of
a move to cut spending costs and focus more on digital programming.
The BBC has said it is cutting several hundred jobs in its World Service
departments, due to rising inflation and a government freeze on the license fee
the corporation receives. At least 382 jobs worldwide are said to be affected,
as the BBC shifts to digital content production amid a $35m funding gap.
Until 2014, the service was funded by the British Foreign Office and has
since relied on taxpayers, advertising, and government grants to keep
BBC Arabic is not alone in the cuts and World Service is ending programming
in at least 10 other languages including Persian, Chinese, Hindi, Kyrgyz,
Uzbek, Bengali, Indonesian, Tamil, and Urdu. Some services including BBC Arabic
will remain as a programmed digital service. Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo,
Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu, Yoruba, and Arabic will have a scheduled online
In the UK, it was the first radio station of its kind and aired its first
broadcast in 1938 as part of the British Empire Service. Its intent was to
counteract Italian and German pre-war propaganda and featured one news bulletin
a day. It progressed with morning readings of the Quran and eventually moved to
offer several daily news broadcasts on UK and Levantine time.
Over the coming years, the station extensively covered World War II, the
1956 Suez Crisis, Arab-Israeli wars, the invasion of Iraq, protests, and
ongoing coverage of the conflict in Palestine.
The news has been met with sadness around the globe and many have taken to
social media to express their thoughts. One Twitter user wrote “It’s very
disappointing that the BBC decided to get rid of one of its most listened-to
radio services in its history. People in places like Sudan don’t have access to
modern technology, and they rely on the BBC radio service, particularly the BBC
Arabic for their daily news.”
Another said, “It was shocking news for all Yemeni listeners from all over
the country, even the rural and remote areas. BBC radio was their only
connection to the world. That’s really sad news.”
Speaking to the Middle East Eye, editor-in-chief of BBC Arabic radio,
Adel Soliman, described the last broadcast as an “emotional day” and
assured listeners that there are imminent plans to upload the station’s
historical broadcasts to the online BBC archive.