My little essay about the BBC's decision
May 12, 2001 05:52 PDT
From the May 12 Communications World:
KIM: As one who has listened to BBC World Service for thirty-six years,
that is, since before it was called World Service, I feel compelled and
qualified to comment.
It seems FM rebroadcasting satisfies the needs of BBC more than it
satisfies the needs of the BBC audience in the United States. It brings
the larger audience numbers that look good in the annual report. Public
radio listeners are likely to stumble across some content with some
connection to BBC during the week. But FM rebroadcasting does not bring
U.S. listeners the full diet of World Service programs.
The full range of World Service programming is available via the
Internet. Internet audio has been a godsend for the devoted radio
listener. But, to me, there's something just not natural about listening
to radio via the Net. Perhaps it is the audio compression that is
subconsciously fatiguing. Radio is supposed to be the most intimate of
the mass media, but listening to radio parked in front of a personal
computer is not a cozy experience.
Certain appliances were supposed to make Internet audio look and
feel more like radio. But the most promising of these devices, the
Kerbango Internet Radio, was canceled by 3Com Corporation before
production even began.
The entire BBC World Service schedule will also be heard here in
the States through Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio, when
they get started later this year. Reception will be more reliable than on
shortwave, but it will also cost ten dollars per month. (So far, the
ionosphere has not seen fit to impose a monthly charge.)
Sirius will not have a radio for home use, so to listen to World
Service via Sirius, one will have to get in the car and go for a drive.
XM Satellite Radio will have a radio for home use. It's a rather large
boombox like device. Its antenna will have to be placed on the south
side of the listener's house, with an unobstructed view to the sky above
the equator. I have huge majestic elm trees on my south lawn. Sorry,
Bush House, as much as I enjoy listening to World Service, I'm not cutting
down those trees.
Shortwave, for all its faults and degradations, is a robust and
time-proven medium. I can take a receiver the size of a paperback novel
to any room of my house, and as long as it's fairly close to a window,
reception of World Service will be at least adequate. Add the
world-famous Elliott Skydangler antenna -- about five meters of any kind
of wire connected to an alligator clip -- that's about seven cents worth
of parts -- and reception markedly improves. I can even connect my
portable shortwave radio to my car antenna, and listen on the road.
Yes, there is occasional fading on shortwave. That's part of the
experience. It's nature's way of reminding us that it is a privilege to
listen to a radio station from another country, far away.
Among shortwave broadcast listeners in the United States, BBC
World Service is the most popular station. Many of us think the
programming is better than from anything we can hear on U.S. radio
stations, commercial or noncommercial. Shortwave will not be the same
without BBC World Service. BBC World Service will not be the same without
(speaking for ke and not for voa.gov)
Kim Andrew Elliott
Producer and Presenter
Voice of America
Washington, D.C. 20237 USA