After reading Sam Beckwith’s comments, I decided to look into how exactly the BBC Czech Service closure would play out.
BBC Czech Service VÃt KolÃ¡Å™, who by the way is a really nice guy, had this to say on the BBC Czech website. I’ve excerpted and translated it below:
The BBC Czech service has 12 transmitters. Do you know what will happen to them?
The decision from BBC top management is such, that they would like to stay in the Czech Republic. The fact that broadcasts are stopping in Czech does not mean the BBC would like to leave the Czech Republic. The leadership of the BBC World Service is making an effort to keep English broadcasting on 12 frequencies in the Czech Republic, for several reasons.
One is informing, because the BBC World Service’s program brings information from the whole world, never in a limited circle. Another is also language assistance. Listening to broadcasts – not just English courses – helps people learn English. As far as I know, there is no alternative in the Czech Republic.
I think that from the side of the Czech Republic, prestige has not gone unnoticed. I can’t imagine a cosmopolitan city, like Prague or Brno, that wouldn’t have a trasmitter that transmits in the language that has become the lingua franca of our time – and that would be English.
Does that mean that broadcasting in Czech is an anachronism?
I’m a little schizophrenic in answering that question. From the point of view of a British taxpayer, it looks like an anachronism. We don’t live in the world of the Cold War, and the world has changed since ’89. We live in the 21st century, and the world has been influenced by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. I think that this announcement is an effort by the BBC World Service to react to that new world. They’re common-sense arguments.
But with my heart, I perceive the Czech broadcast to be very meaningful, not anachronistic in any way, because I think the Czech Section has managed do something other language services that survived the cut will have to strive for – to fully integrate into the local media market.
It is a great loss. The broadcast is full of life, it was and is successful and has a strong listener base. From this standpoint, broadcasting in Czech is in no way an anachronism.
Over at the Critical Distance weblog, broadcast and technology guru Jonathan Marks points out that the BBC World Service is making the cuts in services like the Czech Section in favor of an Arabic TV channel, something it has tried in the past and failed at.