BBC World Service must adapt to new technologies, says Horrocks

BBC World Service faces a ‘rapid deterioration of its impact’unless it can respond to a sharp fall in its shortwave radio audience, its global news director said today.

Peter Horrocks said the BBC’s drive to shift its international audience to multimedia was showing success but the BBC needed to do more to prevent audiences leaving the BBC to seek news via emerging technologies.

Horrocks made his claim as the BBC released figures from an internal audience survey which suggested the number of people using its international news services has increased by three million to an estimated 241m each week over the last year.

However, the overall increase in viewers and listeners tuning in to the World Service and the BBC World News channel came as the corporation lost more than 20m shortwave radio listeners.

BBC World Service recorded an overall decline of more than eight million year-on-year to an weekly multimedia audience of 180m as a result of the dwindling shortwave radio audience.

Radio audience losses were particularly dramatic in Bangladesh, which lost seven million listeners, India, where 8.2m fewer listeners were recorded, and in Nigeria, where the World Service witnessed a fall in listeners of 2.9m.

Horrocks said: ‘BBC Global News’s record audience demonstrates that people come to us for journalism that is challenging and asks difficult questions, yet respects different points of view and actively encourages debate.

‘The figures also show the success of our multimedia strategy and investments for global audiences.

‘But the continued dramatic decline in shortwave listening shows that those audiences are rapidly changing the way they access international news.

‘Unless BBC World Service can accelerate its response to those changes, it will face a rapid deterioration of its impact as other technologies become more prominent in international media markets.”

Despite continued blocking of its online service by the Iranian authorities, the BBC said its Persian service recorded audiences of 3.4m, including 3.1m watching BBC Persian television in Iran.

Overall, the BBC’s Arabic service attracted an audience of 22 million a week, including 12 million watching BBC Arabic television.

The BBC said: ‘BBC World Service continued to have strong impact in Afghanistan, where BBC audiences are 10m; and in Iraq where the BBC reaches 4.5m people each week. In Burma, the BBC now reaches 8.5m listeners, up 1.4m on the last survey.”

BBC World News and bbc.com/news attracted a combined global audience of 83m, the corporation said.

BBC World News has a weekly audience of 71m while the number of people accessing BBC.com rose from 1.1m unique users in February to 1.5m by April.

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