The BBC World Service sees more listeners, and Ceefax lives!

Above: Kumasi, Ghana - taken while working for the BBC World Service in 2014

  • The BBC World Service released a five-year review. The data in the review ends in March 2020, so doesn’t include the majority of the pandemic, but even so, shows the total reach has grown from 246m listeners (March 2016) to 351m listeners (March 2020). “Digital platforms” were responsible for a third of this reach. It’s a very fine service, which I’m proud to have worked for - with programmes available in Australia on ABC News Radio in off-peak and weekend hours, and also 24-hours a day (in stereo!) on SBS Radio 3 on DAB+, which is often on in the car.

    • The SBS variant confuses me. SBS Radio 3 literally is the BBC World Service, with the exception of two weeks in the year where it sometimes broadcasts a Eurovision-themed channel. Personally, on DAB+ I’d be calling it “SBS: BBC WLD SRV” rather than the more cryptic “SBS Radio 3” (and I genuinely think that it would sell more DAB radios were they to do so, which given SBS has very limited analogue frequency space would be a good thing). The version of the World Service on SBS includes a fascinating editoral choice of taking the African breakfast show (including bright and breezy “Good morning!” language at, er, 3.00pm). And the published programme guide is, er, slightly less than useful.
  • What an astonishing project this is: someone has produced a CEEFAX teletext service, retrofitting the current content of the BBC News website into it. All the numbers are as you remember them. Genius work. It always used to be the case, and possibly still is, that the BBC News content management system confines journalists to a teletext-length page at the top, where you need to be able to tell the whole story…

  • Nadine Dorries, the new UK Culture Secretary, apparently says the BBC (is) staffed by people ‘whose mum and dad worked there’. Except, a) she didn’t say that at all; b) she gave both her daughters well-paid jobs working for her parliamentary office, so is somewhat of a hypocrite; c) she actually has a point, as I boringly go into in a full article on Medium.

  • Good work from the plaigarism ’news’ website the Daily Mail, who has begun copying peoples’ Twitter threads and running them as opinion. It’s fascinating how, day after day, month after month, they get away with this sort of stuff.

  • “Prime Minister. Stop. Talking. We’re going to have questions and answers - not where you merely talk, if you don’t mind.” The BBC’s Nick Robinson tries to interview British Prime Minister and part-time children’s entertainer Boris Johnson, and, by the sounds of it, loses his rag a little. I wondered whether Boris’s headphones were a bit quiet, or whether there was a delay on the line: to be told that they were in the same studio…

  • To Australia, and SMI data comparing media revenue in August year-on-year. A significant jump, showing media has hit a five-year record. A few thoughts from it:

    • 2021 was an Olympics year, and one in a decent timezone, so that probably explains TV’s best showing since August 2017
    • Radio seems to have come back from last year, but that’s about it - a drop of 15% over the past five years.
    • Newspaper revenue is just 38% what it was five years ago. And magazines were too small to even split out in 2016, but revenue seems to have entirely disappeared.
  • Dinky doo! Tell ten to tell ten that Scottie McClue is now doing an internet phone-in. I’ve no idea how this works, but good on him for giving it a go.

  • Anyone want to see a big transmitter falling over being carefully demolished with explosives? Here you are then - this is the Bilsdale transmitter in North Yorkshire, which caught fire earlier this year, and is now needing full replacement.

  • PRS for Music, the UK equivalent of ASCAP/BMI/SESAC, has renewed its blanket licence with the BBC for another five years. One rather amazing statistic from its press release: “In 2020, PRS for Music processed over 100 billion lines of music data from across the BBC’s platforms”.

  • Audacy’s Tim Clarke has been promoted to SVP, Digital Audio Content and is the man you need to talk to about the Audacy app, and Audacy’s station websites. I’ve met Tim on a number of occasions, and can tell you that a) he’s a very good bloke, and b) he isn’t as out of focus as this in real life.


Sorry, by the way, if you felt you’d read the story about Afghanistan radio somewhere before. The way I put this newsletter together is to blame there. I’ve a simple plan to avoid that happening again!

And also, good luck to you if you’re in Lisbon, Portugal, for Radiodays Europe. I’m very jealous you can travel: but it looks like I should be able to be at Podcast Movement Evolutions in March next year, which’ll be a welcome change.

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Thank you to Roy Martin from RadioToday UK; to Paul Easton, music scheduler extraordinare currently working with Jack in Oxford; and to Aimee Blakey, who’s started a new career, for your kind support this week. I’ve been to the new coffee shop. It’s quite OK, though it’s a fifteen minute walk through 39-degree heat.

Thank you, also, to Richard Hilton, and Brun Audio Consulting for your ongoing support of this newsletter. I’m very grateful to you.

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