Television

BBC radio service suffers declining listenership

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MUMBAI: It is cementing its position as the world's leading international radio broadcaster. However, in India as in other countries, BBC World Service is grappling with a major decline in its listenership.



In a recent report, it admitted to having suffered major setbacks in India over the past year. It claims a weekly global audience estimate of 146 million.



Besides India, BBC World Service also experienced significant losses in Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Russia.



Meanwhile, the above mentioned 146 million figure equates to at least 50 per cent more listeners than any comparable international radio broadcaster. The bad news is that the figure represents a four million drop from last year's figure of 150 million. The figure took into account a significant drop in short wave radio listening year-on-year. This has been partially offset by a big rise in listening through FM.



BBC World Service's acting director Nigel Chapman noted that short wave listening is in long term decline. "Audiences demand better audibility. It is sometimes difficult to find suitable FM partners in some countries or to overcome regulatory obstacles, like bans on international news broadcasting on local FMs, in others."



BBC World Service is now available on FM in 139 capital cities. On a bright note it added that independent surveys conducted in top markets also showed that it remained the most trusted and objective international broadcaster when compared to its main radio competitors in each market. The survey was done in 16 markets including the US, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia.



In Afghanistan's capital Kabul, BBC World Service claims to enjoy a 60 per cent weekly reach. In Iraq, the launch of FM broadcasts in Baghdad, Basra and other major cities helped to secure a weekly audience of 1.8 million.



Nearly half of its total audience comes from Africa and the Middle East. Audiences across both regions increased by 6.8 million from last year to 68.5 million.



Online BBC World Service has been able to extend its reach particularly among younger audiences. The website attracted 279 million monthly page impressions in March 2004. This equates to over 16 million unique users a month. This is a rise equivalent to eight million new monthly users of the BBC's international news sites during the 13 months between February 2003 and March 2004.

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