BBC’s new foreign language services raise an old question

As readers may be aware, the BBC recently announced the expansion of its foreign language

“The BBC World Service will launch 11 new language services as part of its biggest expansion “since the 1940s”, the corporation has announced. […]

The new languages will be Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.

The first new services are expected to launch in 2017.”

With that announcement meaning that the BBC will be broadcasting in forty foreign languages,  the longstanding issue of the accuracy and impartiality of content produced by the BBC’s foreign language services is obviously of interest.

The BBC World Service Operating Licence published in November 2016 does not clarify the mechanism by which adherence to the four relevant BBC public purposes or compliance with editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality are to be ensured for broadcasts in foreign languages although the licence does state that:

“As far as is relevant, the editorial standards that apply to the BBC’s UK Public Services apply equally to the BBC’s international services.”

The BBC World Service webpage directs members of the public wishing to make complaints to the general online complaints form. However, in our experience when complaints have been made about foreign language reports (for example, this one in Persian), the BBC complaints department has declared itself unable to deal with the complaint and suggested contacting the department which produced the programme.

With OFCOM set to take over later stage handling of complaints from the BBC next year, the issue of the technical ability to handle complaints concerning foreign language content at both early and advanced stages is clearly one which needs to be addressed and clarified to members of the BBC’s funding public.

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Why is BBC Arabic feeding its audiences politicised terminology?


4 comments on “BBC’s new foreign language services raise an old question

  1. The fact that OFCOM will ultimately be responsible for these services is good news. I know from my own experience as a translator that OFCOM monitors broadcasts closely and has the content translated when in doubt. The BBC will not be able to get away with protecting its foreign-language broadcasters from being held to account over extremism and bias.

  2. When will the Hebrew service be available? Can’t be too long now that they’ve sorted Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.

  3. Duvidl is vaguely familiar with Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, and Tigrinya, the main language of Eritrea’s nine languages. Oromo is another language spoken by large numbers in Ethiopia.

    Duvidl knows that Eri TV, the government channel of dictator Isaias Afewerke puts out an unceasing stream of Isra-hate propaganda masquerading as news and largely modelled on the corrupt BBC’s Isra-hate output. Therefore the corrupt BBC’s Isra-hate output is highly likely to be translated into Tigrinya, giving unsuspecting Eritreans a double dose of biased propaganda against Israel from its own dictator and the BBC.

    Conversely, Ethiopians and also Eritreans seeking a much higher standard of living and news coverage might choose, as many have already done, to emigrate to Israel which has its own TV channel in Amharic, which some Eritreans also speak.

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