Non-Voice of Britannia

Most Pakistani taxi drivers here have their radios tuned to one of two AM stations, I’d noticed.
I finally asked a driver which stations they were, expecting them to be stations broadcasting out of the Pakistan. It turns out that one is Voice of America’s Urdu service, the other is the BBC’s Urdu offering.
Which is best? The BBC seems to be preferred, based on a poll of two or three drivers. Not very scientific, I know, but I am obviously somewhat biased. Voice of America’s channel has more lighthearted stuff, but the BBC’s news and other content is trusted more.
But! Voice of America broadcasts 12 hours a day, whilst the BBC only manages a one hour broadcast between 1900 and 2000.
I know that World Service broadcasts have been massively cut back in recent times, cost and the internet being cited as reasons for this. I know too that the BBC have an excellent online presence in many languages.
That said, I can’t help but wonder how radio cutbacks will affect British interests in the years to come.
The average Czech who might have enjoyed the World Service ten years ago has ample access to online content from the BBC.
AM and SW radio broadcasts in Urdu, however, are obviously not targeted at people sitting in front of their Apple Macs looking at the BBC News’ Urdu articles. If the US think it’s worth broadcasting an Urdu service 12 hours a day, they clearly think there’s an audience for the message that’s being sent out.
I suppose the bigger picture here is whether Britain wants to invest time and resources to make its voice heard. The simple answer seems to be that unless the recipient is online, it doesn’t. Does that matter? I expect that will become clear in twenty years’ time.


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