24 Facts About BBC World Service


BBC World Service is an international broadcaster owned and operated by the BBC, with funding from the British Government through the Foreign Secretary's office.

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In November 2016, the BBC World Service announced that it would start broadcasting in additional languages including Amharic and Igbo, in its biggest expansion since the 1940s.

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The World Service was funded for decades by grant-in-aid through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office until 1 April 2014.

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BBC World Service English maintains eight regional feeds with several programme variations, covering, respectively, East and South Africa; West and Central Africa; Europe and Middle East; the Americas and Caribbean; East Asia; South Asia; Australasia; and the United Kingdom.

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Director of the BBC World Service is Liliane Landor; the controller of the BBC World Service in English is Jon Zilkha.

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BBC World Service began on 19 December 1932 as the BBC Empire Service, broadcasting on shortwave and aimed principally at English speakers across the British Empire.

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Programmes in German, Italian and French started on 27 September 1938, and by the end of 1942, the BBC World Service had started broadcasts in all major European languages.

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On 25 October 2005, the BBC announced that broadcasts in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai would end by March 2006, to finance the launch in 2007 of television news services in Arabic and Persian.

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BBC World Service had been based in London, but often travelled to Kyrgyzstan and used BBC resources to agitate against President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, appearing on a Kyrgyz radio station under a pseudonym with a disguised voice.

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At its launch, the BBC World Service was located along with most radio output in Broadcasting House.

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However, the building was vacated in 2012 as a result of the Broadcasting House redevelopment and the end of the building's lease that year; the first service to move was the Burmese BBC World Service on 11 March 2012 and the final broadcast from Bush House was a news bulletin broadcast at 11.

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BBC World Service encompasses an English 24-hour global radio network and separate services in 27 other languages.

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Traditionally, the BBC World Service relied on shortwave broadcasts, because of their ability to overcome barriers of censorship, distance, and spectrum scarcity.

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The BBC has maintained a worldwide network of shortwave relay stations since the 1940s, mainly in former British colonies.

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BBC World Service is available by subscription to Sirius XM's satellite radio service in the United States.

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The World Service is available up to eighteen hours a day in English across most parts of Asia, and in Arabic for the Middle East.

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Japan and Korea have little tradition of World Service listening, although during the 1970s to 1980s, shortwave listening was popular in Japan.

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World Service employed a medium wave transmitter at Orford Ness to provide English-language coverage to Europe, including on the frequency 648 kHz.

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On Monday, 18 February 2008, the BBC World Service stopped analogue shortwave transmissions to Europe.

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World Service is available as part of the subscription Digital Air package in Australia.

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BBC World Service is broadcast on DAB, Freeview, Virgin Media and Sky platforms.

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World Service uses several tunes and sounds to represent the station.

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The phrase has become a trademark of the BBC World Service, and has been influential in popular culture, such as music.

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In 2019, the BBC World Service started a weekly podcast called Eurovision Calling with Jayde Adams and Scott Mills.

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