Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by BBC World Service

  1.  Perhaps nowhere else in Europe are the BBC's editorial values—impartiality, accuaracy, fairness and independence—of such immediate significance as in this region. They enable the World Service to speak with a common set of standards and values, in whatever the language and to whatever the target audience. It is these values that make the World Service stand out among its competitors and create a relationship of trust with its audiences.

  2.  The World Service last submitted evidence on this subject to the Committee in September 1999. Since then, the fall of President Milosevic has radically altered its postition in Serbia. Until October 1998, 33 radio stations in Serbia had been carrying World Service programmes, when the Milosevic government suddenly banned all rebroadcasting. After that, the only way the World Service could reach these audiences was on short wave or through the Internet. When Serbia woke up with a new President on 6 October 2000, BBC World Service was the only international radio station to be rebroadcast locally, by the independent station Radio B92 in Belgrade.Within two weeks the BBC's Serbian programming could be heard on six stations broadcasting from eight FM transmitters, covering 50 per cent of the Serbian population. There are also eight stations rebroadcasting the World Service in Montenegro, carrying all the Serbian programming as well as a daily 15 minute slot specially produced for Montenegro. Funds for this have been specifically earmarked from the Three-Year settlement agreed last year.

  3.  This means that the World Service has now become an effective voice in the reconstruction of Serbian society and is establishing the same kind of presence that it already has in Kosovo and Bosnia. One of its major strengths is its intergrated editorial approach. The Serbian service not only carries interviews with the major political players in the new Serbian and Yugoslavian Governments, it also broadcasts material on Kosovo and Albania obtained from the Albanian section. The fact that its output is now regularly quoted in the Serbian media—press, radio and TV—is a further indication of its impact. Planned future programming will address key cross-regional issues, particularly developments in Kosovo and Montenegro.

Moreover, the BBC's correspondent based in Belgrade, Jacky Rowland, has provided a consistently outstanding service for the World Service throughtout 1999 and 2000.

  4.  In Kosovo the World Service broadcasts 24 hours a day in Albanian, Serbian, Turkish and English on its own frequency in Pristina. The Albanian output is also rebroadcast by seven other stations throughout Kosovo, eg in Prizren and Mitrovica. Recent programming has included interviews with Ibrahim Rugova, Adem Demaci, the leaders of the Serbian (Oliver Ivanovic) and Albanian (Bajram Rexhepi) communities in Kosovska Mitrovica, the commander of the American troops in Gjilane and Father Sava of the Serbian community in Kosovo. The Albanian Service also broadcast a live phone-in programme on the Serbian minority in Kosovo with Bernard Kouchner and Hashim Thaci jointly, produced with Radio 21 in Pristina. For the near future high-impact programming on the central problems of the region is planned, again jointly with local stations. Among the subjects will be the problems of the buffer zone in Eastern Kosovo, personal security in the border areas and the situation of women after the conflict.

  5.  Although radio will remain the principal way of reaching audiences in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, the World Service will also continue to offer news in audio and text on the internet in Serbian and Albanian.

  6.  In addition to this, the World Service Trust addresses the training and development needs of a severely distorted media environment in the region. The World Service Trust runs the BBC School of Journalism in Sarajevo, funded by DflD, where over 350 journalists from a mix of ethnis groups have been trained since its opening in 1996.

  7.  During 2000, the World Service Trust delivered a series of training programmes for journalists from Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. The training was designed to build professional skills and capacity in key areas: reporting diversity, election reporting, professional development and institution building. The groundbreaking "Reporting Diversity" seminars brought together broadcast journalists from across the region to discuss for the first time local coverage of the Kosovo crisis. This innitiative was supported by the FCO's Eastern Adriatic Department.

  8.  This year, the Trust will be launching a journalist training programme in Podgorica and Belgrade, where a new European Centre for Broadcast Journalism will be located. The project is a partnership between the World Service Trust, Radio Nederland and Deutsche Welle and is wholly funded by the Dutch Ministry for Development and Co-operation. The Trust will also be the joint organiser of a conference under the auspices of the Stability Pact on the transformation of the media, in particular of public service broadcasting.

  9.  In Montenegro a three-year project is now underway to restructure the public service broadcaster RTV Montenegro.

  10.  In Kosovo the World Service Trust will carry out a three-month programme tp provide in-station support for radio Kosovo, covering news production and programming skills. Their will also be two further in-station support schemes for the Serb minority station Radio KiM.

  11.  Jointly with the British council, the World Service will meet the increased need for English learning in Yugoslavia and Kosovo.

  12.  Overall, Yugoslavia and Kosovo remain a very high priority for the World Service. In the task of post-conflict reconstruction both World Service programming and the project work of the World Service Trust play an essential part.

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