Bean counters push BBC to act of utter stupidity: BBC Arabic radio broadcast goes off the air after 85 years

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1) “BBC Arabic radio goes off air after 85 years; The Arabic language radio is among 10 different languages that are ending due to inflation and licensing fees, BBC says,” Al Jazeera, January 27, 2023.

2) “Ukraine War, February 26, 2022: The current fighting; Playing “the China card”–again; Voice of America Russian-language short-wave broadcasts to Russia,” The Trenchant Observer, February 26, 2022.


BBC Arabic Service Radio has gone off the air since Friday after 85 years of broadcasting as part of a plan to cut costs and focus on digital programming.

The corporation said it is cutting hundreds of jobs in its World Service and has been forced to make the cuts because of the United Kingdom government’s imposition of a freeze on the license fee money it receives.

At least 382 jobs worldwide will be cut as the corporation focuses on digital content production amid a $35m funding gap.

The BBC announced in September that the Arabic language radio service was among 10 different foreign language services that would cease radio broadcasts, including the Chinese, Hindi and Persian services.

It is hard to overstate the stupidity represented by the decision to stop radio broadcasts in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and Persian, concentrating on digital content instead. The shortfall in funding is $35 million, a drop in the bucket compared to the outlays involved supporting Ukraine with military aid to defend itself against Russian military aggression.

It appears that the number of people in government decision making roles who are capable of thinking and connecting the dots has greatly diminished.

More shocking is the revelation that the British Foreign Office either is not involved in decisions regarding the BBC, or is itself staffed by idiots with government oversight authority.

The government whiz’s responsible for this decision don’t seem to be aware that autocratic governments like those in Arabic countries, China, Iran, and Russia can and do block internet access to BBC programs.

They probably don’t understand how it is easy to listen to a short-wave broadcast in secret, whereas putting up an antenna for internet reception exposes listeners to identification and repression by the state.

They probably don’t understand that dictatorships increasingly have tools to identify individuals using VPN networks on the internet, exposiing listeners to identification and repression by the state.

They probably don’t understand how important international broadcasts such as those of the BBC Arabic service are to demonstrators and others fighting for freedoms in Iran, Egypt, Syria, China, and even India, where freedom of information is curtailed.

With idiots like this making decisions with widespread and significant repercussions, one has to wonder how the nations of the Free World will ever prevail in the perennial struggle between free countries and thos with authoritarian regimes. International radio broadcasting has been a critical weapons in the contest. The countries of the Free World countries have been ending these broadcasts and engaging in what is essentially unilateral radio broadcasting disarmament.

This stupidity is not limited to Britain. The United States stopped its shortwave broadcasts of the Voice of America in 2008. Decision makers apparently believed the Cold War was over.They have not updated their files.

An inexpensive and relatively effective way if broadcasting accurate news and the truth to citizens in authoritarian countries exists, and has a long record of success. The fact that younger government officials may have never seen a short-wave radio or heard a short-wave broadcast should not prevent free countries from using this low-tech but highly effective means of breaking through the Russian electronic Iron Curtain, thev Chinese firewall or any of the other barriers dictatorship erect to prevent the truth and accurate news from reaching the ears of people in their countris.

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About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.