BBC World Service has announced changes which will further reinforce its Russian-language output. The main thrust of the reprioritised investment is placed on strengthening the website, bbcrussian.com, which has become the key method for delivery of all BBC content in Russian.
The website is having a significant impact in Russia where it is easier to access than the BBC radio services, and where demand for online news is growing and becoming increasingly sophisticated. In August 2008, at the height of the conflict between Russia and Georgia, the number of unique users of the website increased dramatically to nearly three million, and many of these new users have remained with the site in September.
The audience is also accessing other platforms online: in August 2008, traffic to online audio content doubled while demand for video jumped six-fold to nearly 2,300,000 views. Use of news from BBC Russian via wireless handheld devices also more than doubled. Use of forums and interactive traffic has also grown and during the recent conflict was at record levels.
Head of BBC Russian, Sarah Gibson, explains that the BBC wanted to improve its Russian-language offer to serve audiences whose media consumption habits are changing rapidly. She says: “Our aim is to deliver a fresher, more relevant service for our audiences in Russia and the wider post-Soviet market – a trusted, high quality website with the kinds of features the audience expects, and news and current affairs programmes at key times of day, available online as well as through more traditional radio platforms. It’s clear that audiences like our multiplatform offer more and more, and our challenge now is to improve this offer and to give audiences more formats that they enjoy and engage with. That is why we are focusing resources where they will have most impact.”
Resources are being focused to enable the BBC to improve its rolling 24/7 news offer on bbcrussian.com. The BBC will also increase the number of high-quality video reports, underpinned with original journalism from Russia. These, too, will be updated 24/7. The BBC is also strengthening resources for bbcrussian.com during the morning peak periods and is increasing the resources for interactivity round the clock.
Reprioritisation also means boosting the Learn English section of bbcrussian.com – a tool which helps millions of Russian- speakers to master English in a simple and engaging manner.The BBC Russian radio also changes, with re-focusing of resources on peak listening times and with more investment in flagship news and current affairs programmes.
Key daily radio programmes on short and medium wave will be expanded to make up a simpler schedule tailored for peak morning and evening drive-time audiences.
The flagship morning weekday news and current affairs programme, Utro na BBC, will be increased by half an hour, to three-and-a-half hours each day. The afternoon weekday drive time news and current affairs sequence, Vecher na BBC – which includes the hour-long BBSeva hosted by Seva Novgorodsev – will be increased, by one hour, to four hours each day.
New weekend editions of Vecher na BBC will be launched, on both Saturday and Sunday, to take the place of current short updates. There will be changes elsewhere in the radio schedule to fund these improvements. The production of some short news bulletins, which were designed for Russian FM partners, will cease as the BBC no longer has these agreements.
Longer format feature programming will cease; their themes and issues will be incorporated into mainstream news and current affairs content. The reprioritisation also enables the BBC to develop extra newsgathering resources in Russia, resulting in increased reporting and analysis of Russian affairs. The BBC will also increase the current affairs reporting of British cultural and social affairs, as well as reporting on the former Soviet Union, for all programmes and platforms.
Sarah Gibson sums up: “We believe that a fuller multimedia news offer will strengthen the impact of BBC Russian and that, as a result of these changes, BBC Russian will become the most trusted and influential international news provider in Russia, serving audiences in the global Russian-speaking community, across borders and platforms.”