The BBC and the New Environment

The British Broadcasting Corporation, one of
the most solid old-media organizations, is operating under a new charter for the
next decade, a sign of the fundamental change that continues to re-shape the
communications environment.

The British Broadcasting Corporation will soon be operating under a new charter. The BBC is perhaps the most solid and substantial old-media organization in the world. It’s a voice that has always been trustworthy, above the political fray (even when politicians sought to involve it in political disputes) and a continuing source of substantial quality programming and information delivery.

Its World Service, built substantially on shortwave radio delivery, was originally designed to serve expatriate British citizens outside the UK. It has come to reflect local audience concerns as well, but this mandate would be difficult to justify and even more difficult to fulfill, I believe, because audiences have changed along with the technology.

As governments open the radio spectrum to local licensees competition increases. The audience for shortwave has collapsed except during emergencies or political repression when shortwave signals from outside a country are the only way to get information to broad numbers of people inside. Local radio has replaced international shortwave broadcasts, and audiences will continue to move to local radio.

The BBC will, no doubt, need to re-define itself in the global marketplace, a process that it has begun but that will continue as change overtakes media operations around the world.

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