The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Arabic radio service went off the air Friday, marking a turning point in regional media, and prompting eulogies and words of sorrow from many fans across the region.
What happened: The BBC announced in September plans to cease its radio broadcasts in Arabic, Persian and other languages in an effort to save money. The BBC’s World Service also announced hundreds of job cuts at the time. Radio has also become less popular around the world with the rise of podcasts and online media.
BBC Arabic Radio finally went off the air at 9 a.m. ET Friday. However, BBC Arabic’s website will continue to run as well as host current and new audio programs, the BBC said in a tweet.
BBC Arabic is one of the BBC’s oldest services and began in 1938.
Reactions: Many journalists mourned the loss of BBC Arabic on social media, including the outlet’s own journalists.
It's far beyond sad and painful to see @BBCArabic radio shutting down today, after nearly 85 years on air! It's incredibly difficult to describe how we feel!— Sally Nabil (@sallynabil) January 27, 2023
Some Britons have said the end of BBC’s Arabic radio service will further diminish the United Kingdom’s soft power in the region. Commentator Chris Doyle wrote for Arabian Gulf Business Insight in October that BBC’s downsizing comes as Russia’s Arabic-language programs are expanding.
“The BBC’s independence matters in a world of rival broadcasters who are state-sponsored, including by regimes with appalling human rights records. Russia Today, for example, has expanded massively but hardly has the same reputation for independence,” wrote Doyle.
Cutting the services in Arabic, Chinese and Urdu also means 382 people across BBC will lose their jobs, the broadcaster estimated last September.
Jim Muir, BBC's correspondent in Beirut, lamented the loss of the Arabic service, describing it as an "end of an era."
Tears in my eyes as I listen to the last broadcast by @BBCArabic, closing down after 85 years. It meant so much to so many people here over the decades. Now the airwaves are dead. End of an era.— Jim Muir (@MuirJim) January 27, 2023
Know more: Press freedom has long been an issue in the Middle East. Reporters Without Borders noted last month that press freedom decreased in most Middle Eastern and North African countries in 2022.
The BBC was created by the British government but is funded by a television license fee paid by the British public. It is therefore not state-funded and maintains editorial independence.