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Calling... the rest of the world..?

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By Jackie Beedie


Radio has a place. It has not been swamped and made insignificant by the internet in the same way that terrestrial television has for one main reason.

You can listen to radio in your car. When you are driving you cannot tweet, facebook or snapchat, you cannot watch youtube or liveleak. In your car your options are playing your own music or radio and since I have played the four music tracks I like to death, I listen to radio. In Bahrain that means BBC World Service. The only other options are listening to someone else’s music tracks.

The BBC World Service is a mix of news and feature programmes which are both entertaining and informative. They are supposed to be from all around the world but here’s the rub, they are mainly from and about Africa. Now I do not have any problem with Africa. I have been there a couple of times and it has some nice people and big animals, but I do have a problem with a supposedly worldwide broadcaster having too much content from the one place.

There are seven continents, and although we do not expect to hear much from Antarctica, it would be nice to hear some more content from north and South America, Asia, Australia and even Europe. While we get the occasional Boston calling from the north there is virtually no content from South America. Asia is only ever India, and in Europe mainly Scandinavia. But far and away the lion’s share of features are from Africa. When the BBC asks for listeners’ feedback about any subject, two out of three opinions aired come from Africa, when the BBC asks for comments about British and European football the majority are from Africa.

In sport they run a poll every year to elect the African footballer of the year. What about the rest of the continents? They all play football, Asian footballer of the year may be a bit obscure but South American footballer of the year would be very popular. Also in football there is high coverage of the African cup of nations but nothing about the Copa America never mind CONCACAF or even the Asian cup.

Radio programmes fall into two categories – news and features. The news by necessity comes from all over the world, and so is generally not discriminatory, but features favour the African continent hugely. The BBC has an office and a reporter in Dubai but it must be the easiest job in the BBC because you very rarely hear a feature from Dubai or the GCC or the Arab world.

Africa is a very interesting place but then so is Japan, Russia, Brazil, China and all the other countries that make up our blue planet. So come on BBC if you really are a true world service then let’s get the girls and boys in your team sent further afield than Kampala, Nairobi and Lagos, and let’s try moderating the feedback so that it reflects all the world’s nations.

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