BBC World Service cuts come into force this weekend

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This weekend spells the end of the BBC World Service’s radio output in Russian and the closure of the broadcaster’s main medium wave frequency in western Europe. It comes after the Foreign Office funding for the service was cut by 16% in the government’s spending review last October.

The broadcaster is to air its final radio programmes in Russian on Saturday evening, after 65 years, as the service is axed as part of the corporation’s spending cuts. It is axing three Russian-language programmes and is also stopping its short- and medium-wave broadcasts to Russia in English. It will, however, continue to produce three other online-only Russian programmes at bbcrussian.com

The head of BBC Russian, Sarah Gibson, said in a statement: “This is a sad time for all of us at BBC Russian. We are also proud of the unique heritage our broadcasts have left behind – in the hearts and minds of millions of radio listeners.”

As part of the cuts, the BBC will also stop transmitting its medium-wave English language service on 648kHz in Europe this Sunday. The frequency can normally be heard 24 hours a day in north-east France, Belgium, The Netherlands, north-west Germany and south-east England.

The move has been criticised by the NUJ, which said: “The World Service will continue to be available in Europe by satellite, cable and online but that won’t cut much ice with the many Britons trying to hear the service on their transistor radios.”

The World Service’s short-wave broadcasts in Hindi, which were also due to stop this weekend, have won a temporary reprieve. The BBC is now in talks with potential commercial partners about keeping the service going. It has until March 2012 to find alternative funding.

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