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World Radio Day

It's with a tinge of sadness I commemorate this #WorldRadioDay, as after 85 years of broadcasting, BBC Arabic, the corporation’s oldest foreign-language radio service, has been silenced to save money. More are to follow. BBC Persian, for example, is being taken off air next month and going online only; just as Iranian authorities restrict internet access in response to the recent protests. 

Make no mistake, almost a decade after the Foreign Office stopped funding the World Service and with the license fee frozen/politicised, the long-term future of the World Service is at risk. This matters. In 2022, it had a weekly audience of more than 360 million people globally. Approximately 6 in 10 people in Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy, consume BBC news every month (9% consume CGTN and 2% Russia Today). The vacuum created by BBC stations going off the air will gladly be filled by others. China and Russia are already investing billions to massively expand their broadcasting operations across Africa, South America and the Middle East. 

Launched in 2020, the superb Missing America podcast, from Crooked Media, looked at what happens when the US (under Trump) abdicated its role on the world stage. It highlighted how in this absence of leadership we saw nationalism, authoritarianism, sectarianism and disinformation take shape like never before. I sincerely hope we won’t be listening to Missing World Service in years to come.