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04/17/2002 Entry: "Lies, Damned Lies, and BBC Audience Figures"

Lies, Damned Lies, and BBC Audience Figures BBC World Service released its latest audience figures yesterday. Audience numbers worldwide fell from 153 million to 150 million. World Service says this is due to a precipitous drop in the number of listeners in India. Tom Leonard takes the World Service to task in the provocatively-titled Listeners Desert the World Service in the Daily Telegraph (registration required). Julia Day in The Guardian also cites the loss of listeners in India in her article World Service loses 3m listeners. Radio Netherlands' Media Newsdesk page notes that the BBC claims an increased number of listeners in North America, up from 2.3 million to 2.9 million, then goes on to point out shortcomings in the BBC's record of research.

It seems necessary at this point the renew our criticism of the BBC's research, namely that it is more interested in raw numbers of listeners than in listenership. Our survey of local rebroadcasters makes it crystal clear that huge swathes of North America are uncovered or insufficiently covered by BBC's local partners. Our point-counterpoint page refutes every argument the BBC makes regarding the superiority of the audience gained through local rebroadcasts. The second question in particular takes them to task for the methods they use. The BBC appears to be more interested in counting listeners than listenership; someone who stumbles across The World on their local public radio outlet counts just as much as someone who deliberately seeks out the BBC and listens for hours to their news, arts, and cultural programs. Graham Mytton, perhaps the most respected audience researcher in the field of international broadcasting and former head of BBC research, concurs that the direct listener is vastly more valuable. The BBC may have gained 600,000 listeners in North America, but one has to question how much they're worth to the BBC and whether those listeners even realize that they're listening to the BBC.

In the mean time, The BBC's budget continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Ashling O'Connor reports in the Financial Times that the World Service, whose budget grew from the £180 million they had last year to £201 million this year, is now asking for an additional £65 million over three years. In light of this growth, the claim that the one half million pounds saved by turning the transmitters off to North America and the Pacific accounted for a major savings for the BBC is increasingly laughable.

Finally, the BBC makes the claim that the number of listeners to the BBC has likely increased in the wake of September 11. This may or may not be the case, but as we pointed out in October, they were completely absent from New York City during the most critical period. Their much-vaunted local rebroadcasts were pre-empted by US-based coverage, and they weren't heard on the New York airwaves for four days after the attacks. The BBC's strategy of moving to local broadcasting may allow them to count more people as listeners, but it seems guaranteed to marginalize their influence. The BBC's research will never tell them this, though, because it doesn't measure the factors that would expose this problem.

Replies: 12 Comments

Dear Sir/Madam, I teach at the University of British Columbia in the Centre for Research on Women's Studies and Gender Relations. I am interested in conducting some research into a sample of BBC-TV's national news programs during 2001. Could you please let me know who I should contact, and where your archives might be located. Thank you very much, Sunera Thobani.

Posted by Sunera Thobani @ 06 October 2003 2154 UTC

Radio Canada International needs to take over where BBC World Service has left off. It is in Australia and NZ's national intrest (with respect to access to high power shortwave transmission facilities) for Radio Canada International (www.rcinet.ca) to build a shortwave relay station in British Columbia. RNZI's (www.rnzi.com) transmitter failure this week is a classical domenstration of the gaps in shortwave transmission facilities that exist in this part of the Pacific. Australia, NZ and Canada are all involved in a war aginst terrorism that will take many decades to win. How can Australia and NZ expect to win in this war when this vital tool of regional deplomacy and state power is not avalable? This proposal needs to be heard now -- especially with respect to future security at the Vancouver Olympic Games. Radio Canada International has never broadcast to the South Pacific in its entire history, a racist policy that has no place in the post Cold War era. The technical proposal: http://cbc.am/rci-bc.htm http://cbc.am/rci.htm http://cbc.am/HRSrcl.htm --> An antenna FAQ ========= RNZI text ========= Haere Mai. Welcome! RNZI's transmitter is off the air with a serious fault - we regret this interruption to our shortwave service to the Pacific.

Posted by Max Power @ 06 September 2003 0844 UTC

Look. First of all I don't care what happens to BBC radio or any other of its disgusting counterparts, I must say, it is the blandest most tasteless piece of media work i had the misfortune of experiencing, sure CNN might be controlled but its like a fresh breeze rather than a dull news station, all those british people spouting out pieces of news you wouldnt care to listen if it meant your lisfe was at stake. I ahte the UK and so consequently the BBC which also has its clwas driven deep into the already disturbing british culture and lifestyle. Thank god I live in CAnada and not britain and for that matter not in the USA.

Posted by Omar Zulfiqar @ 09 August 2003 2236 UTC

"BBC World(?) Service" ... Is this to assume that the USA and Pacific region are no longer a part of the world?

Posted by Curtis Castor @ 22 March 2003 0415 UTC

For several months we received the BBC TV broadcast at 300K, for some reason it was discontinued by MSNBC Is there any way we can receive the BBC TV news at 300K Hopeful, dick heim

Posted by richard heim @ 06 July 2002 0454 UTC

For several months we received the BBC TV broadcast at 300K, for some reason it was discontinued by MSNBC Is there any way we can receive the BBC TV news at 300K Hopeful, dick heim

Posted by richard heim @ 06 July 2002 0454 UTC

Any reduction in the influence of the BBC is very good news. It betrays and prostitutes the BBC's past reputation for honest and factual broadcasting since becoming an instrument of relentless Blairite propaganda at home and overseas.

Posted by David Lloyd @ 03 June 2002 1602 UTC

I have been trying to get BBC World News (300K) for about a month. I suprised that BBC does not have its own portal where people in the world where the news is censored (in the United States) can go directly to the portal and see the BBC World News. BBC World News is a standard that the American media should learn from, and not always feed the American people with trivial news like a dog fell in a ditch and 20 men went about the save the same. I guess this is a very strange kind of news where the suffering of humanity is not given importance and trivial matters and sleazy sex stuff is given coverage in detail. I urge the BBC to create a high speed portal where the news is freely and efficently presented.

Posted by Syed M Mohiuddin @ 28 May 2002 1820 UTC

Folks: Can't you see what is happening?! They are preparing to keep North America in the dark so we WON'T get the truth!!! The truth is about the coming "planned" martial law and United Nations takeover in America. There are foreign troops waiting in our national parks/ wild refuge(s). Look at "all" the data and you will see all the moves that traitors in our government(s) are doing. Have you ever read the Patriot Act lately? Uh?! They are doing the same thing that Hitler did to gain power. Remember - Hitler passed laws before he moved on his own people. The UN wants its One World Government and a One World Religion under the Antichrist. This all goes along with operation "Garden Plot" and "Cable-Splicer" Look these up on the Internet while we still have the Internet. I suggest all of you get "born-again" through the salvation of Lord Jesus Christ while you still can! Time is running out!

Posted by Kevin @ 23 May 2002 1731 UTC

BBC is stopping it's service it's a good news, because BBC uses a lot frequencies and hi-power transmitter that creats many problems in DXing low power stations, if BBC stops service from some parts of the world (e.g Pacific) then many frequencies will be clear but listeners of that part can still search for BBC transmitting to other regions(e.g. Far east) it will be a much adventurus DXing. And personally I hate BBC as I hate Britain- the most un civiliged, aggressive peoples of the world, and they allways distributes partial news, simply BBC is a headache for South Asian DXers.

Posted by Partha Sarathi Goswami @ 10 May 2002 1208 UTC

Since losing BBCWS in daytime hours over shortwave I tried adjusting to listening over the net which was very inconvenient over long periods. No longer would I leave BBCWS shortwave on for many hours but listen to quick little bits over the internet. I decided if I am going to sit in front of my PC, I may as well see live video while I am at it. It therefore became a daily staple to view BBC World TV at 100k or 300k sporadically throughout the day. After getting into that routine of viewing BBC World since losing BBCWS shortwave, this month they shutdown the video stream for BBC World. Enough is enough, they seem to be going out of there way to make it difficult for North American listeners to hear and view thier content. So I am effectively done trying.

Posted by Mike @ 25 April 2002 0447 UTC

Why is it that whenever I read any self congratulating praise from the BBC, I immediately think of Hans Christian Andersen's tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes"? Why is it that whenever I hear the slogan..."Where ever your are, BBC World Service twenty-four hours a day" I think of self-perpetuating effete oligarchies, spin doctors and perpetrators of mendacity? Why is that whenever I think of the BBC, and more particularly of the various experts the BBC has as its managers and directors, I think of the folly of Soviet style central planning? Why is it when I read that the BBC's listening audience has increased in both Australasia and North America since the corporation terminated its shortwave transmissions to those areas on July 1st 2001, I am incredulous? Did anyone really expect that the BBC would announce that its shortwave termination had resulted in a DROP in listeners? Why did the BBC not canvass me, a known World Service listener for over three decades, to discover what my current listening habits are? The BBC helped to win the last wars (ie. World War II and the Cold War) at home and abroad with its superb programming and it overall morale boosting productions. Now, however, the BBC seems to have fallen victim to the evils which it did so much to overcome!

Posted by Mr R. G. Rose @ 18 April 2002 1757 UTC