David Ricquish passed along this letter, and it was too good not to share. It dismantles BBC's arguments about availability in New Zealand and the Pacific as effectively as the study of local placement does for the US and Canada, and is a hoot to read to boot.

An Open Letter to Elizabeth Wright, BBC Head of Region Asia and Pacific

In TIME Asia (June 25), Elizabeth Wright, the BBC's Head of Region, Asia and Pacific is quoted as saying 'The media markets in New Zealand and Australia are extremely developed. In both countries we have a strong presence on FM/MW'

Let's tune the radio dial for a reality check Elizabeth.

In New Zealand, listeners in Auckland (covering an area greater than metro Los Angeles) have a 5kW MW signal that barely covers the metro area in daytime, and fades around the fringes, and more, at night.

It's run by listener donations, a couple of local advertisers and leases a frequency owned by Auckland International Airport. It's future isn't assured, and the frequency has been home to several formats in recent years.

In the 50,000 population Kapiti Coast, the BBC WS is relayed on FM by a local community station, but only from midnight to 6am. The signal is low power, and barely covers the Kapiti Coast and can't be heard in Wellington, barely 30 minutes drive to the south.

That's it Elizabeth. That's the BBC WS strong presence on New Zealand's airwaves.

Let's be generous. BBC WS is available as an audio channel on Telstra-Saturn, a cable TV company. They have about 25,000 subscribers in some parts of Wellington.

And, once upon a time, local listeners leased a low power MW frequency in Wellington from a religious radio network. When the Christians wanted one of their own stations in Wellington, the BBC lease ended.

Come on Elizabeth, the BBC is supposed to provide accurate information. It's what your reputation is built on.

And, of course, you've conducted audience research surveys in New Zealand haven't you Elizabeth.

We almost forgot the Pacific Islands. They lose their coverage on July 1 as well.

Let's first recollect that many of the islands are now independent states. They have a seat and a vote in the UN and other international bodies.

There's a low power FM relay in Suva (Fiji). Useful when the electricity supply is working, no coups are planned, and provides coverage to bits of Suva.

Also one in Vila (Vanuatu) which covers the main town. And one's planned for Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) which is in the news again with fresh riots.

In fact, each of these Melanesian states has media freedom as erratic as the power supply, and a tinpot FM signal fed via satellite just can't compete with shortwave for continued, unblockable and reliable service.

Then, of course, there's Nuku'alofa (Tonga), Apia (Samoa), Noumea (New Caledonia), Pago Pago (American Samoa); Honiara (Solomon Islands); Mata-utu (Wallis et Futuna); Tarawa (Kiribati); Alofi (Niue); Papeete (Tahiti); Avarua (Cook Islands), Honolulu (Hawaii) and all the other capital cities, islands and highlands where the BBC goes silent from July 1.

These islands may not count to you Elizabeth, but when the Foreign & Commonwealth Office fellows start complaining that they have to stand on toilet seats waving their transistor radios around to find only static and silence, they will not be impressed.

They will tell tales to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, from whence originates your public purse. It's happened before (Ambassadors on toilet seats complaining to visiting Committee members about lousy BBC reception). It results in what the Committee's Chairman calls 'bruising' encounters between BBC WS executives and the Committee.

One complaint was forgivable. But, twice is avoidable and could be even more bruising in the next encounter in August.

And, when HM's loyal servants are not impressed, keep fielding angry letters and calls from grumbling expatriates, can't get a decent internet connection because the power supply keeps surging, and one day find that the local vote can't be counted on at the UN to support Britain's position, then, dear Elizabeth, you'll wish you'd spent a few pounds to keep those damned old fashioned fuddy-duddy radio hobbyists shortwave transmitters on the air.

Enjoy your Brave New digital cum satellite cum internet cum local FM World Elizabeth. Whilst you're there, remember to check your facts and don't try and spin doctor we antipodeans. We know cow manure when we see it. You're making us wonder if we can ever trust what the BBC tells us ever again. And, that is the saddest part of this whole dismal debacle.

In the meantime, please do the decent thing. Take the word 'Pacific' off your job title and business card Elizabeth.

David Ricquish
Wellington
New Zealand.