Ten Talking Points
When writing to the BBC and to UK constituencies that may have influence on the BBC's decisions, it would be best to be direct, concise and polite. To assist you in the preparation of your correspondence, here are ten "talking points" for you to consider and choose from. Be advised that World Service management is independent of the domestic services and is financed through grants from the British government. The government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office is consulted on aspects of World Service operations, such as languages used and overall goals and priorities. However, content issues and the specifics of policy are the province of the BBC World Service management.
BBC audience research undercounts shortwave listeners in North America and understates the importance of shortwave to those listeners.
Radio vendors and manufacturers report sales of over one million units annually.
Apart from news, the wider variety of World Service programming appreciated by its long-term listeners is virtually unavailable on radio without shortwave.
BBC audience research fails to differentiate between new listeners via AM/FM partnerships, who have been exposed only to brief news bulletins, and new and long-term listeners, who have experienced the full range of World Service programs via shortwave.
Such research also fails to differentiate between purely World Service content and joint productions with others such as "The World" with limited BBC contribution.
These practices call into question the credibility of the BBC characterizing persons so exposed as World Service listeners in the true sense of the word.
The availability of BBC World Service to AM and FM radio listeners in North America is much more severely restricted than BBC announcements and assertions indicate.
A review of the BBC's own information supplied at BBC Online clearly demonstrates the extreme limitations on World Service availability absent shortwave.
World Service is not available everywhere via AM or FM, as it is via shortwave. Large areas of the continent are entirely unserved.
Where World Service is available to AM and FM radio listeners, in the main, this is for only very short periods during the day or during overnights when most listeners are asleep.
Almost all of the World Service's feature programs are not available via AM and FM.
BBC statements greatly overplay the availability and usability of the Internet to North American listeners.
Internet audio, practically-speaking, is only viable with a broadband connection. Most Americans, by far, still access the Internet through unsuitable dial-up services.
While access to the Internet is less expensive in North America than in other regions, it is still much more expensive for the listener over time than shortwave.
The Internet is primarily a wired medium. To listen via the Internet, one must be in close proximity to a computer. "Portable" listening to live programming via a computer is virtually impossible -- especially when compared to the ubiquitous portability of shortwave.
The Internet is not radio. It is a unique communications medium in its own right that is used differently--and by a different "audience"--than radio. One cannot serve as an effective substitute for the other.
The current structure of the Internet is not particularly well suited to the task of distributing radio services "live" as evidenced by the unreliability of connections and such frequent phenomena as "net congestion" and server failure.
Copyright restrictions (sports, music) and other legal issues already prevent many programs from being netcasted on the Internet. This phenonmenon is increasing; not decreasing.
Sirius and XM Radio, the direct digital satellite services cited by the BBC due to become available later this year, have already had their start-up dates delayed several times and their future is far from secure.
Financial analysts continue to express concern over the continued unavailability of receivers or converters, the difficulty the companies have had creating and manufacturing reliable chipsets, the challenge of maintaining a reliable signal in urban and other areas of difficult terrain, uncertainty over consumer acceptance, and the lack of available financing to support the services until the subscriber level allows them to become self-supporting.
The Internet and pending direct satellite digital services require listener investment in new and often incompatible instruments and the payment of regular, recurring subscription fees.
These added expenses will greatly reduce both the number of people who will be exposed to the full range of BBC World Service product as well as reduce the number of people who will be able to afford to hear the BBC.
This announcement of the BBC's intention to drop shortwave to North America introduces several ironies and calls into some serious question just what the World Service's role and objectives properly should be as an international broadcaster and media provider. Furthermore, its role in promoting British principles and business interests abroad also has to be brought into question.
The decision, if implemented, will have the effect of dramatically reducing World Service accessibility to large portions of the English-speaking world, apparently in favor of maintaining or improving such accessibility to large areas where English is, at best, a secondary language.
This decision effectively disenfranchises several important members of the British Commonwealth as far as access to the BBC World Service is concerned. The fact that the original intention of the Empire Service--forerunner to the World Service--was, in part, to unite what was to become the British Commonwealth, gives this decision a further element of irony.
Overreliance on third-party broadcast partners and rebroadcasters subjects BBC World Service broadcasts to interdiction and disruption. In North America, Australia and New Zealand, this would more likely be due to economic factors, rather than political factors; but the effect would still be the same.
Regardless of arguments to the contrary, one thing will be certain after July 1. The BBC World Service will be much harder to hear in North America, Australia and New Zealand than it is now.
When writing Messrs. Byford and Timmins, remember that people within Bush House itself contacted by coalition member Rich Cuff suggest we emphasize the differences in how we use shortwave versus FM and Online in our letters of protest, as Mr. Byford "...believes that the Internet delivers equivalent audio to affluent American homes...". We need to convince him that the truth is otherwise.