The BBC World Service plans to launch 11 new language services to expand its reach in selected markets across the world. This will be its biggest expansion “since the 1940s”, which has incorporated local African languages in North and West Africa.
The expansion is a result of the funding boost announced by the UK government last year, the BBC announced today. The new languages will be Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.
Kenya has not benefitted from the expansion, perhaps because of its highly educated and more cosmopolitan population of just over 40 million divided in more than 42 different languages. Majority of Kenyans largely understand Kiswahili, Kenya’s national language, and a good chunk of the urban population can handle English.
The first new services are expected to launch in 2017.
Afaan Oromo: Most widely spoken language in Ethiopia
Amharic: Ethiopia’s other main tongue
Tigrinya: The main working language of Eritrea, along with Arabic. Also spoken in Ethiopia
Igbo: An official Nigerian language. Also spoken in Equatorial Guinea
Yoruba: Spoken in south-western Nigeria and some other parts of West Africa, especially Benin and Togo
Pidgin: A creole version of English spoken across West Africa but particularly in the Niger Delta
Gujarati: Native to the Indian state of Gujarat but found around the Indian subcontinent and the world
Marathi: From the Indian state of Maharashtra, including India’s commercial capital Mumbai
Telugu: Huge numbers of speakers, like many Indian languages, primarily in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
Punjabi: One of the world’s most populous languages, it is widely-spoken in Pakistan and parts of India
Korean: Spoken in North and South though the dialects have diverged. Pop culture slang and foreign loan words are notably more common in the South.
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“This is a historic day for the BBC, as we announce the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s,” said BBC director general Tony Hall. “The BBC World Service is a jewel in the crown – for the BBC and for Britain.
The plans include the expansion of digital services to offer more mobile and video content and a greater social media presence. On Wednesday the BBC launches a full digital service in Thai, following the success of a Facebook-only “pop-up” service launched in 2014.
Other expansion plans include:
- Extended news bulletins in Russian, with regionalised versions for surrounding countries
- Enhanced television services across Africa, including more then 30 new TV programmes for partner broadcasters across sub-Saharan Africa
- New regional programming from BBC Arabic
- Short-wave and medium-wave radio programmes aimed at audiences in the Korean peninsula, plus online and social media content
- Investment in World Service English, with new programmes, more original journalism, and a broader agenda
Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s World Service director, said:
“Through war, revolution and global change, people around the world have relied on the World Service for independent, trusted, impartial news. As an independent broadcaster, we remain as relevant as ever in the 21st Century, when in many places there is not more free expression, but less.
Today’s announcement is about transforming the World Service by investing for the future. We must follow our audience, who consume the news in changing ways; an increasing number of people are watching the World Service on TV, and many services are now digital-only.
“We will be able to speed up our digital transformation, especially for younger audiences, and we will continue to invest in video news bulletins. “What will not change is our commitment to independent, impartial journalism.”
The new language services mean the BBC World Service will be available in 40 languages, including English.
Lord Hall has set a target for the BBC to reach 500 million people worldwide by its centenary in 2022. (BBC.co.uk)