NASWA Journal Columns · Easy Listening, April 2000

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

Easy Listening, April 2000

BBC World Service: New Schedules

The biggest news in April for program listeners is the major reshuffling of BBC World Service program schedules into 8 regional streams. The Americas now has its own program stream, instead of “sharing” one with Europe. Practically speaking, though, the time slots for non-news programs are reasonably consistent in the two services.

The BBC is also finally launching an all-news stream, primarily for rebroadcasters, that stream will be available via internet audio as well. Shortwave streams will be a mix of the news stream and feature programming, designed to provide programs with consistent subjects at consistent times during the day.

An example schedule, for the week of April 8th through April 14th, follows this column; you can consult this table to see if your favorites survived the reshuffling. It generally appears as though this consistency applies during local weekdays and weeknights, with different schedules on weekend days and evenings.

Less News is Good News

I pulled out my calculator and took a look at the news content in the new schedule versus the old schedule. For what it’s worth, the new schedule actually has less news programming than the current schedule. The old schedule has 550 minutes of World Today / Newshour / World News / Europe Today out of the 24 hours total–roughly 38% of the day. The prime time block from 2300-0400 UTC has 115 minutes of news, or that same 38%.

Conversely, the new schedule has only 455 minutes of World Today / World Briefing / World News / Europe Today in the 24 hours, or 32% of the day. The 2200-0300 prime time block has 105 minutes of news, for 35% of the day. 60 of those minutes are in the 2200 edition of World Today, which is probably before most of us start listening. If you take that hour out, then you have 45 minutes of news in 240 minutes, or only 19% of the four hours in question. That’s a great improvement, if you ask me, as most of us in North America probably would rather hear features than rolling news.

Gone Disney?

It struck me, as I was listening to Kim Elliott’s interview with Penny Tuerk, Controller of the World Service, on the VOA‘s Communications World last week, that the BBC has gone to “themed” program blocks for its non-news programming. I get the feeling I’m strolling through Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center as I hear of program block titles like “World Living”, “World Showcase”, and “World Insight”.

If you’d like a jazzier format than the Excel spreadsheet inserted here, you can obtain a PDF file containing the new World Service schedule to the Americas by sending a blank E-mail to and typing “AM” in the subject line for the Americas schedule; thanks to Daniel Say for this information via the swprograms mailing list.

Another item Ms. Tuerk mentioned in her interview with Kim was that the Americas program schedules will change with summer time / winter time changes, but this will be the one-hour switch backward and forward, using the UTC clock, that many broadcasters utilize. Ms. Tuerk claims there will be no wholesale changes every six months, as had become the norm.

April Schedule highlights

Fridays, 1445, beginning April 7th: Where do the world’s writers, cosmonauts, inventors, politicians and even royalty go when they surf the net? Electric Journeys is a new eight-part, 15 minute series doupling compelling conversation with the best of the web. The series is a new BBC World Service series in which eight very different people take a personal and fascinating online journey across the internet, revealing their interests as they scour the web for sites that are of particular interest to them.

Fridays, 0045, beginning April 14th: The richness of Brazilian music is celebrated in Brasil Dois Mil-Brasil 2000, a new three-part, 30 minute international music series. Presenter Lucy Duran introduces improvised singing from countryside poets, music of the Afro-Brazilian religions that maintain traditions already lost in Africa, and the latest state-of-the-art styles like mange beat, that mix old local rhythms with rock, R & B, funk and drum-and-bass. “Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer power and diversity of the sounds that would hit me,” says Duran. “This is a country that takes the cultivation of the body and spirit through music and dance to a fine art.”

While on the subject of Brazil, So Much Land, So Much Hope is a two-part, 30-minute series airing 0130 Saturdays and 1530 Tuesdays on how hundreds of thousands of peasant families and rural workers in Brazil are engaged in a long struggle to win the right to a plot of land. In the first of two programs, Sue Branford accompanies a group of landless peasants as they occupy a sugar plantation in the northeast of Brazil, defying gunmen sent in to stop them. Suggestion: Mark this timeslot as a likely timeslot for general documentaries and features….

For the first time in its history the first BBC Reith Lectures of the new millennium will be delivered by more than one Lecturer. The Reith Lectures 2000–Respect for the Earth has as its topic sustainable development, and each Lecturer discusses an area of his or her own expertise. I’m guessing this four-part series will air Mondays 0530 UTC, in the time slot normally reserved for Play of the Week, if the Americas schedule follows the pattern of the Europe schedule.

Plays of the Week , now airing at 2301 UTC Saturdays and 0530 UTC Sundays, include:

Sundays, April 9th and 16th: Les Liaisons Dangereuses–Lindsay Duncan, who made her name in the original Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage production, recreates her role of the scheming Marquise de Merteuil in Christopher Hampton’s much-praised two-part dramatization of the novel by Choderlos de Laclos.

Sunday, April 23rd: Sweet Talk, by the award-winning playwright Michael Abbensetts, is a riveting drama of race relations where the personal and political are hopelessly intertwined.

Sunday, April 30th: Documents of Identity, a powerful new radio drama by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, is an autobiographical account of events that took place between February and April 1997, under the regime of the former Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha. Paterson Joseph, Rakie Ayola, Claire Benedict and Patrice Naiambana star in the play by the Nigerian writer which highlights the plight of refugees seeking political asylum.

Other Seasonal Changes

Radio Australia

According to Radio Australia expert John Figliozzi, Australia’s return to standard time won’t change, but there are a few exceptions. Australia All Over will start one hour later Saturdays at 2000, continuing one hour later to 0000. The programs heard between 2300 and 0000, for the most part, will shift back to 1900-2000. Grandstand will also commence one hour later and end one hour later–running Saturdays from 0210 to 0800, and Sundays from 0310 to 0800.

Radio Netherlands

I guessed slightly wrong last month when I “opined” the new Radio Netherlands program schedule. The new program lineup in the two hour Eastern North America release at 2330 will look like this:

2330-0000 Newsline with Press Review
0000-0030 Feature #1
0030-0100 Feature #2
0100-0125 Newsline

For example, Media Network will now air Fridays 0000 and 0500 UTC.

World Hot Spots: Taiwan

China and Taiwan will be interesting places to monitor on radio in the next few months, following the Kuomintang’s loss of the Taiwan presidency to a party more openly advocating Taiwan’s independence. Since there are no official direct contacts between the two governments, it’s likely that pontificating and posturing in radio broadcasts from Radio Taipei International and China Radio International will be the norm.

‘Fest musings

It was great to meet many NASWAns at the Winter SWL Fest in Kulpsville last month. The Saturday afternoon roundtable with international broadcasters showed that there remains a significant role for printed materials like the Journal and this column, though the immediacy and interactivity of the Internet can be critical for the dissemination of program information and listening tips which arrive with only a few days or hours to spare before a program goes on the air.

In the same vein, the broadcasters in attendance agreed that shortwave broadcasting continues to be a key component in their broadcasting mix, and won’t be disappearing anytime soon. The broadcasters generally agreed that

swprograms: One Year Later

April 1st marks the one-year anniversary for our Internet mailing list discussion group on shortwave and other international broadcast programming. We are now at approximately 160 subscribers, and we’ve had several interesting discussions on shortwave programming strategies, most liked and least liked programs, and a generally more interactive exchange than is possible in a written scheduled publication like this. Clearly the discussion has met expectations, and we have a set of regular contributors I doubt many of us would have found if we hadn’t set the list up. Check it out for yourself by sending a blank e-mail to or by visiting the URL

Thanks to those who have recently dropped me a note; I’ll catch up with feedback next month!

73 DE Richard

(This month’s column also includes four pages on the totally revamped BBC World Service schedules.)

Read more Easy Listening columns.

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