Friday, July 15, 2011

BBC World Service audience falls due to cuts

BBC World Service audiences have fallen 14m in the past year, largely as a result of service closures and platform changes due to cuts to central Government grants. The overall audience estimate for the year is 166m, down from 180m last year. The World Service, currently funded by the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, had its budget cut in the Government’s Spending Review and in January announced that five language services would close along with significant platform changes to other services.

However, there were solid improvements in some core areas of World Service which partly offset the effects of the cuts. World Service online audience figures have risen by 40% over the past 12 months. The 2010/11 figures indicate that there are 10m weekly unique users of World Service websites, a 3m increase from 2009/10.

World Service English audiences are up 10% on the previous year with a total weekly reach of 43m and the audience in the US has risen to 10m. This follows record audience figures in the UK of 1.79m for the first quarter of 2011 – a reach of 3.5% among all UK adults. There were also increases in the audience figures for the World Service’s Arabic television service. BBC Arabic TV had a strong year with audience growth of 2m taking it to 13.5m viewers.

Peter Horrocks, Director BBC Global News, said: “We’ve had to make considerable changes to the World Service over the past year due to the cut in our funding from the Government and this was always going to result in a drop in our audience figures. The World Service has been looking hard at the best way to provide impartial news and information to our audiences going forward, and it’s encouraging to see improvement in key areas. The strong international journalism from the World Service, particularly during the Arab Spring, has been a key part of the significant increases for online, English radio and Arabic television.

“We are also pleased to see that we are doing so well in the UK with audiences accessing World Service through digital radio, freeview and live streaming online. We will continue to look for the best fit for the audience – online, radio, tv, mobile – wherever it suits them best.”
(Source: BBC World Service Press Office)