The BBC World Service announced recently that it is going to close its Caribbean service on March 31. The news was released in a press release with the BBC issuing details of its response to a cut to its Grant-in-Aid funding from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
BBC World Service is to carry out a fundamental restructuring in order to meet the 16 percent savings target required by the British government’s spending review in October last year.
Debbie Ransome, head of BBC Caribbean Service said, “After one of our best years ever editorially, this has been a great blow for the team here.
“Given what we know BBC Caribbean means for providing pan-Caribbean coverage for a strong radio audience, plus the online links it provides between the Caribbean and its Diaspora, and the amount of goodwill it brought for the BBC from a loyal audience, clearly a void will be left.”
Instead, the BBC will be focusing on online and new media content and distribution.
The cuts will not only affect the Caribbean region but also impact 650 closures worldwide and the loss of 480 jobs over the next year. Audiences are also expected to fall, going from the current weekly figure of 180 million to 150 million.
Other services that will be slashed include the Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian languages. Radio programs in seven languages — Azeri, Mandarin Chinese, Russian (except some programs, which will be distributed online only), Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian will also be cut, and most short and medium wave services will be phased out.
BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks said it was a “painful day” for the world service, but gave assurances that the quality of its production would not be affected.
“This is a painful day for BBC World Service and the 180 million people around the world who rely on the BBC’s global news services every week. We are making cuts in services that we would rather not be making. But the scale of the cut in BBC World Service’s grant-in-aid funding is such that we couldn’t cope with this by efficiencies alone.
“What won’t change is the BBC’s aim to continue to be the world’s best known and most trusted provider of high quality impartial and editorially independent international news. We will continue to bring the BBC’s expertise, perspectives and content to the largest worldwide audience,” Horrocks said.
BBC’s beginnings of Caribbean Service began in 1939 with “Calling the West Indies.” The program featured Caribbean troops on active duty service during World War II reading letters on air to their families back home.
After three decades, Caribbean Service closed in the mid 1970s with Caribbean Magazine the sole focus, which was produced by a separate BBC department.
But in 1988 a reopening of the service featured news and current affairs. The revised department later encompassed Caribbean Magazine as part of the Caribbean stream of programming for the region.
From 1943 to 1958, the program became “Caribbean Voices,” highlighted Caribbean writers.