Bolshoye Radio Closes BBC Russian Service

BBC World Service has been informed by the owners of the Moscow FM radio station Bolshoye Radio that BBC programming in Russian will no longer be broadcast on the station, as of afternoon (Friday ).

This was the BBC Russian Service’s last FM distribution partner station in Russia. It follows two other FM partner stations ceasing to take BBC programmes over the last nine months.

The owners of Bolshoye Radio, financial group Finam, have told representatives of the BBC Russian Service that they are required to remove BBC programming at the request of Russian licensing authorities, or risk the station being taken off-air.

The BBC understands that this will take effect in advance of its scheduled block of programmes this afternoon at 17:00 Moscow time (MT).

The BBC intends to appeal to Russia’s Federal Service for the Supervision of Mass Media, Communication and Protection of Cultural Heritage. It will ask for the decision to be reviewed and for the original concept of the station to be respected.

According to official warnings received by Finam from the regulatory body, the licence requires that all programming must be produced by Bolshoye Radio itself.

However the BBC said that the detailed concept documents – the basis on which the licence was awarded in February 2006 – clearly state that only “60 per cent of the station’s total output will be original material produced by Bolshoye Radio”.

The BBC also stated that according to the same concept documents, the station would also have up to 18 per cent foreign produced content. This percentage of foreign content is reflected in the station’s licence.

The concept documents of the station include the BBC and Voice of Russia as content providers and as integral parts of the output – specifically in order to enable the station “to reflect many and often contradictory views on current affairs”.

Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC Global News, said: “We are extremely disappointed that listeners to Bolshoye Radio in Moscow will be unable to listen to our impartial and independent news and information programming in the high quality audibility of FM.

“The BBC has invested a great deal of energy and resources into developing high quality programming for the station. The BBC has similar broadcasting arrangements with partner stations around the world. Our services are available on FM in over 150 capital cities – some 75 per cent of the global total.”

He continued: “The BBC entered into the relationship with Bolshoye Radio in good faith, and the licence was won in a competitive tender in February 2006. We cannot understand how the licence is now interpreted in a way that does not reflect the original and thorough concept documents.

“We are appealing to Russia’s Federal Service for the Supervision of Mass Media, Communication and Protection of Cultural Heritage. We will ask for the decision to be reviewed and for the original concept of the station to be respected.”

The BBC and Voice of Russia have been on Bolshoye Radio since May this year. The station, which was sold in July to financial investment company Finam, was currently at a test signal stage ahead of an official launch planned for the autumn.

Bolshoye Radio’s test signal included the broadcasts of BBC programming in Russian. The BBC was on-air from 0700 to 1000 MT and from 1700 to 2000 MT.

The programmes included Utro na BBC, London View, BBSeva (hosted by Seva Novgordosev) and a new interactive programme Vam Slovo. A new current affairs programme is currently being piloted, for launch in September.

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