NASWA Journal Columns · Easy Listening, January 1999

Richard Cuff • 42 North 37th Street • Allentown, PA 18104 richard◊

Easy Listening, January 1999

BBC World Service: Big Changes

For months, the BBC has hinted that changes were afoot in World Service philosophy and programming. Effective January 10th, the World Service becomes even more like an all-news radio station with a significant expansion of The World Today. The World Today was launched last year as Europe’s “Breakfast” news program; we in the Americas were treated to half-hour versions at 0400 and 0500, while Europe received the program continuously from 0400 to 0700. At the time, The World Today effectively replaced Europe Today in the program lineup.

What does that mean to us in the Americas? For starters, 12 of the 24 hours of the day will feature minimum half hour weekday newscasts as follows:

0000, 0100, 0200, 0300, 0400
The World Today (30-minute version)
The World Today (1-hour version)
The World Today (30-minute version)
World Update (currently produced only for PRI distribution; 1 hour long)
Newsdesk (30 minutes, as before)
Newshour (1 hour, as before)
Europe Today (30 minutes)

World Update and Europe Today are replaced by Newsdesk on the weekends. Disappearing from the schedule: Newsday.

It appears the feedback from the rollout of The World Today was favorable enough to warrant its expansion, as an Asia/Pacitic version debuts on the 10th from 2200 continuously to 0000 UTC. This results in even more retimings for other BBC programs; you can essentially trash the schedule John Figliozzi provided in November (sorry, John) and replace it with the schedule appearing below.

A Jolly Good Show dropped  
Agenda (new) 0230 Sun
Assignment 0630 and 1130 Thu.
Discovery 0030 Wed
Europe Today 1700 (unchanged) Mon-Fri
Features Blocks 0230 Wed
0430 Wed
0230 Thu
From Our Own Correspondent 0430 and 1515 Thu
In Praise of God 1130 Sun
Insight 1645 Mon-Fri
  0345 Tue-Sat
Jazzmataz 1530 Sat
Letter From America 0345 and 1230 Sun
Music Brief inaudible  
Off the Shelf 0445 Tue-Sat
One Planet 0030 Thu
Outlook 2305 Mon-Fri (40 mins long)
Play of the Week 0630 Sun (unchanged)
Record News 0145 Wed
Science in Action 0030 Sat
Science Extra 0030 and 1615 Sun
Science View inaudible  
Seven Days dropped  
Short Story 0630 Fri
Sports International 0630 and 1130 Wed
Sports Roundup 0320 Daily
Spotlight 0755 Sat
Take Five inaudible
Westway Compilation 0430 Mon (unchanged)
The Works 0030 Fri
World Business Report 0330 and 1730 Tue-Sat/Mon-Fri Wed

Whew! I strongly recommend you contact the BBC for a new program and frequency schedule if you aren’t wealthy enough to subscribe to BBC On Air.

Analysis and Opinion

To some extent this mirrors what’s happening within BBC’s domestic radio services. Radio 4, which had been the source for many of the spoken word features on the World Service, appears to be diminishing in popularity and emphasis. Conversely, Radio 5 Live, an all-news station, appears to be gaining in stature. Clearly the BBC doesn’t want to take a backseat to anyone as the leader in world news delivered in audio. Perhaps the more consistent half-hour timings for feature programs will finally stabilize the schedule.

At least programs like Insight, Omnibus and Assignment remain on the schedule. While the BBC’s news efforts are clearly the most comprehensive on the airwaves, the main attractions of the World Service for me are its single-issue, longer form programs that aren’t solely short-attention-span-material. I fear those are disappearing in the World Service’s ongoing makeover.

New Programs

Weekdays, 1000: World Update is new to shortwave, but not to radio. The BBC began this program for distribution via Public Radio International in the USA when MonitorRadio ceased operations two (three?) years ago. It competes with the first hour of NPR’s Morning Edition (which was also extended to a 5 AM ET start in order to fill the MonitorRadio vacuum), and now airs on shortwave. The program is hosted by Vicki Barker.

Sundays, 0230: Agenda is a new 30-minute program examining the latest ideas and trends. Leading thinkers provide stimulating, and often provocative, views. Repeated Sundays 0730. I’ll have a review in February.

Sundays, 1405: Newstalk is a replacement for International Question Time. Listeners air their views; there’s no mention of any expert moderators. Edited repeats air 0715 Mondays. The January issue of BBC On Air solicits input via the BBC web page, but this link hadn’t been set up as of December 22nd.

Weekdays, 1205 and 2305: Outlook has two new presenters: Fred Dove and Heather Payton, and the program is lengthened to 40 minutes. Many consider this the best program on the World Service, and it’s one of my favorites as well.

Other January Highlights


Tuesdays through Saturdays, 0055: My Century is a new regular series featuring defining moments from individuals’ lives through the past century. Each week will have a different theme: Survivors of the Century, Methods of Transport, and The Secret State are among those listed. This is a “first person” efforteach person will tell their own story. In addition to these 5-minute versions, a half-hour version will air Saturdays 0530, repeated Sundays 1630. I’m not sure if the half-hour program is just a compilation of the 5-minute segments, or if it’s new material.

Wednesdays, 0230, beginning January 27th: Women Who Dared To Speak is a new six-part 30-minute weekly series hearing the voices of women who risked everything to protest against injustices suffered by their sex. Observation: This looks like an additional way the World Service is attempting to reach a female audience. Also airs Sundays 0530, beginning the 24th, and Saturdays 2130, beginning the 23rd.

Tuesdays, 0430: Wild Tales is a weekly 15-minute series produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit recounting experiences of naturalists, cameramen, and explorers on encounters with leeches, elephants, crocodiles, and a singing humpack whale, for example.

Pop and Youth

BBC On Air has adopted this as a new classifcation for programming; this is a not-so-subtle way to increase its draw of young people. Not a bad idea.

Tuesdays, begininng January 12th, 0230: The Next Big Thing is a six-part 30-minute series chronicling the BBC World Service’s musical talent search efforts. The BBC invited unsigned bands from around the world to send in demo tapes in competition for a day’s recording session at the BBC’s famous Maida Vale studios. A distinguished panel of pop people served as judges, and have culled the tapes to the six programs heard here. Even second prize isn’t shabby: £500 ($800 US) for music equipment.

Sundays, 2305: Wright Around The World is a new regular 55-minute pop music show emphasizing listener requests and dedications. Even more revealing comments than thate.g. your most embarrassing moment are invited. The best input each week wins a BBC T-shirt. Steve’s E-mail address is, and his direct dial phone line is +44-171-379-4565. Include your own phone number, as you might be invited to appear on the show! First weekly airing Saturdays 1205.

Thursdays, beginning January 21st, 2230: The Good Relationship Guide is a four-part 15-minute series that provides top tips for managing relationships. Is intelligence more important than a sense of humor? Is clean teeth? A counselor is part of the on-air team that sorts all this out. Listener input is invited, though no specific E-mail or fax address is offered. Also airs Thursdays 1615.

Thursdays, beginning January 21st, 2245: The Lab is a 10-part 15-minute science program viewed from a youthful perspective, looking at current scientific affairs, science perspectives on non-science issues, and profiles of science undertaken by young people. Also airs Thursdays 1630.

Classical Music

Sundays, 1515: Concert Hall is a regular 45-minute series currently featuring live performances recorded by the BBC between the 1950s and 1970s. Recently released from the arhives, January’s program features conductors Rudolf Kempe, Leopold Stokowski, Georges Enesco, and Constantin Silvestri.

Drama and the Arts

Saturdays, 2230: Play of the Week highlights include the following:

January 9th and 16th: The Glass Menagerie – Callista Flockhart, Julie Harris, John Goodman, and Zeljko Ivanek star in this LA Theaterworks co-production of the Tennessee Williams classic. Airs for one our both Saturdays.

January 23rd: Via Dolorosa – This one-man play was written by British playwright David Hare in 1997 following a visit to Israel. It’s the view of a society rich in dogma, division, and despair from a British perspective where faith is a form of social embarrassment. Running time: 90 minutes.

January 30th: The Earthquake Girl – Kate Hims, one of Britain’s most talented young radio dramatists, recently completed this play set in and around a library. Light-touched, with perceptive humor, The Earthquake Girl looks at a librarian who lives her life with a quietude paralelling that she enforces in her library. Running time: 60 minutes.

Tuesday-Saturday, 0445: Off The Shelf reads George Eliot’s Silas Marner, published originally in 1861. Silas Marner is set in the beginning of the 19th century, in the Industrial Revolution’s early days.


Weekdays, 1405: Science programs are now featured in this time slot every day. Monday, Health matters; Tuesday, Discovery; Wednesday, One Planet, Thursday, The Works, and Friday, Science in Action.

Getting In Touch

For reference, here’s how to contact the World Service:

Clip and save for future use.

Program Exchange

Bob Montgomery, who enjoys diverse music styles as much as I enjoy documentaries, suggests Port Moresby’s (Papua New Guinea) Saturday program from 1100 to 1300 UTC on 4890, with 3385 parallel and sometimes better. With the seasonal change reception is pretty good for Bob, in his Eastern Pennsylvania location. This Saturday program features a fully English broadcast of the Top 20 Hits of Papua New Guinea. The word “of” is literal herethis is not US pop music, but music of Papua New Guinea origin.

Speaking of music, another Radio Australia weekend program you might want to check out is Sound Quality, a Radio National program airing Fridays 1205 UTC, the same time block normally occupied by Late Night Live. Tim Ritchie hosts a program with music termed “interesting, evolutionary, inaccessible, and wonderful.” The key word there is inaccessible, as Tim features music that isn’t marketed via major outlets. A recent playlist included these artists: Wicked Beat Sound System, Centriphugal, Fluid, Lemongrass, DJ Shadow, FourPlay, and Finitribe. Tim can be E-mailed at if you have feedback and ideas. (Radio Australia website)

Did you know…Tuesdays through Saturdays, Deutsche Welle‘s Americas releases at 0100, 0300, and 0500 carry the same programs. On Sundays and Mondays (in other words, Saturday & Sunday nights), the different releases carry different programs: (from Deutsche Welle’s website)

UTC Sundays

Saturday Review; Inside Europe
Saturday Review; Spectrum
Saturday Review; Marks and Markets

UTC Mondays

Mailbag; Arts on the Air
Religion and Society; Arts on the Air
Mailbag; Cool


I know this column was heavy on the BBC World Service this month, but this new emphasis on The World Today represents a significant programming development. Better balance next month, I promise.

Thanks also to Peter Bowen, another longtime friend of the column, for his good wishes; may all have a happy, healthy, prosperous, propagation-filled 1999!

Until next month,

73 DE Richard

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