Friday, February 03, 2023 | Rajab 11, 1444 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

London not calling in Arabic anymore

It is a reality that the BBC Arabic radio is a highly professional news media organisation of the modern day. It has exhibited professional dexterity in dealing with many international developments of long-term implications. It was a role model for many others

When the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced that it is shutting down its Arabic radio service, it shocked the entire Arab world. The shock and surprise were natural as the bonding between them developed in a period of 84 years.


The broadcaster took similar decision with regard to other several language services due to financial constraints. But this move will cut 382 jobs to embark on its digital journey as the number of its followers on this platform has multiplied and wants its stronger presence on digital platform. It is an upheaval felt at every level. One cannot deny that digitalisation of the media is the need of the hour. The news service of BBC is already present on digital platforms in 41 languages.


It is a reality that the BBC Arabic radio is a highly professional news media organisation of the modern day. It has exhibited professional dexterity in dealing with many international developments of long-term implications. It was a role model for many others. Recently it has started reducing the size of its team in various languages working for it from London. It has every right to decide its strategy to continue in the environment of changes in technology and reach out to more and more of its viewers and listeners. At the same time, it has also strengthened its digital content to be more attractive for its audience. Instead of beating the same track, it has emerged as the most innovative and creative in production of its contents.


Liliane Landor, Director of the BBC World Service, has clearly declared that in this changed world this decision was a must. The people of Britain paid 500 million pounds annually for 84 years. This is how the BBC maintained its independence, integrity and reliability. This gave value to Britain as well. This was a long arm of the empire where the sun never set. Its voice in Arabic was heard with respect and attention the same as its English service. It was London calling in Arabic.


The BBC has already shut down many of its language services. Similarly, the voice ‘Huna London’ (Here is London in Arabic) is lost in oblivion. There were many who grew listening to this voice every morning and several times in a day. Now, they would feel lost in the absence of what was music to their ears and their window to the world and also to their surroundings in the Arab world.


It is the changing economic and technological environment in the world which has turned the table and taken away the voice from the daily life of many among us. This is a lesson for many other media houses around us. They should learn from this experience. It is always advice to learn from others' experience, rather than repeating the same experience which was done by others.


The BBC has learnt some lessons. There is hope that it will emerge more attractive for its traditional audience. The transformation to digital transmission is a step which matches with the current economic and digital environments. We never imagined that due to these constraints Britain would cut its long hands which reached across various continents, particularly to the Arab world.


We can call it a tactical pull out from difficult media competition. But it has implications for the rest of the media houses. They should revisit their strategy to continue in the sphere as major players. There are new rules for media. Those who would not learn it will disappear. The silence of the BBC Arabic radio is a major loss to the world media community as well as the audience. But it should also be seen as an opportunity for every committed listener to continue with it on a new platform. This is also an avenue for the others in the industry to grab it.


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