BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring

BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring

Post by Mike Terr » Tue, 12 Apr 2005 11:37:52

There is a fascinating collection of assorted BBC World Service publicity
material and personal photographs and documents from c1950-2000 at

I found this article about BBC Monitoring:

Quote:>From "Voice for the World" booklet, published by BBC World Service, 1988.


British national newspapers love to carry exclusive stories - and to boast
about them. If BBC Monitoring were a national newspaper, the rest of Fleet
Street would be in a constant state of envy.

Whether it is Mr Gorbachev appealing for calm in the Armenian disturbances,
the shooting down of an Afghan airline by Mujahedin rebels, a coup in
Burundi, or the release of an Ulster nurse by Sudanese guerrillas, it is the
monitoring service which broke the news to the world.

The examples are random and relate only to the recent past. BBC Monitoring
has quietly sustained that kind of record since its inception just before
World War Two.

It has many milestones in its history, announcing the news that is flashed
around the world: Hitler's death in 1945; Nasser's nationalisation of the
Suez C***and the Hungarian uprising in 1956; the end of the Cuban missile
crisis in 1962; the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968; the
declaration of martial law in Poland 13 years later.

Set up at the government's request to listen to the output of the world's
radio stations, BBC Monitoring is based at Caversham Park in the Berkshire
countryside, as it has been since 1943. Its receiving aerials and satellite
dishes are sited four miles away at Crowsley Park.

In 1947, the service and its American equivalent, the Foreign Broadcasting
Information Service, reached a formal agreement for the complete exchange of
monitored material. Effectively, the BBC and the Americans divide the world
between them, the BBC concentrating on Europe, the Middle East and Africa,
with a unit in Kenya.

At its wartime peak, BBC Monitoring needed 1,000 people, Today it has half
that number, which includes a substantial number of multilingual monitors
who can switch from language to language as the need arises.

The service's workload is staggering. Monitors, operating shifts around the
clock, listen to some 200 hours of broadcasting a day in about 35 languages
from some 50 countries. Another 300 hours of monitoring is provided daily by
about 25 news agencies. Altogether, with the American input, news and
information from about 130 countries is handled.

It all adds up to 3/4-miIlion words, which have to be sifted by editorial
staff who produce
a 24-hour newsfile and a printed summary of world broadcasts.

The daily newsfile of up to 12,000 words, is teleprinted to consumers in the
BBC, other news organisations and government departments. When martial law
was declared in Poland in 1981; 16 international news agencies and
newspapers and radio stations in Europe, Asia and the USA subscribed to the
Polish file. Other 'best-sellers' have been broadcasts from Argentina during
the Falklands War, Afghanistan since Soviet intervention and Iran,
particularly during the US hostage crisis.

The summary of world broadcasts - based on the same information as the
newsfile but in greater detail - runs to 100,000 words a day. It is
published six days a week in four parts covering the USSR; East Europe; the
Far East; and the Middle East, Africa and Latin America

Thousands of copies are printed and posted daily or dispatched
electronically to subscribers all over the world including Nexis, the
world's biggest database in Dayton, Ohio.

To meet the constant increase in broadcasting output, a 16 million
five-year modernisation plan began in 1985, underwritten by the government.
It included a major building programme, extensive engineering improvements
at Crowsley Park, and the computerisation of the service.

Two of four 11-metre satellite dishes agreed under the plan have been
installed. These are steerable and are powerful enough to access signals
from satellite
television transmissions.

'The trend is towards TV as the prime source of information,' says Eric
Bowman, the General Manager of BBC Monitoring. 'We see about 40 different
channels, but at the moment we're only watching Soviet and Libyan TV on a
regular basis. We won't have our full TV set-up until early

That is when the main-frame computer, linked to an electronic storage and
distribution system with 180 visual display units, is expected to come into
service. 'It will simplify transmission and editing and speed things up,'
says Eric Bowman. 'In the meantime it's people and typewriters as usual.'