New Delhi :Stating that BBC Hindi radio was a source of “accurate, impartial and independent news” for 10 million listeners in India, a group of intellectuals, artists and journalists has asked the British government to rethink its decision to severely cut funding for the BBC World Service to enable continued transmissions on shortwave radio.
In a statement titled ‘Don’t silence BBC Hindi radio’, the signatories, including broadcaster and author Mark Tully, writer Vikram Seth, Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, music maestro Amjad Ali Khan and historian Ramchandra Guha, said they were “astonished at the news that the BBC management has decided to stop transmission of BBC Hindi radio on short wave from 1 April, 2011”.
The group will submit a memorandum on the issue to the British high commission here Thursday.
“For nearly seven decades, BBC Hindi radio has been a credible source of unbiased and accurate information, especially in times of crisis: The 1971 war, the Emergency in 1975, the communal riots after the demolition of the Ayodhya mosque in 1992,” the statement said.
“Today India is facing other serious problems: The ongoing conflicts in Kashmir, in the Northeast and in vast areas in central and eastern India, where Maoist militants are fighting the state,” it added.
According to the statement, 10 million listeners, most of them in rural and often very poor areas, “need BBC Hindi radio and the accurate, impartial and independent news it provides”.
BBC Hindi transmissions, it pointed out, were accessible in rural and remote areas and, as short wave receivers can be battery operated, available in places without electricity or during power cuts.
The radio service was an essential source of learning for school children and college students in rural India preparing for competitive exams.
It “cannot be silenced in times when democracy is under threat”, the release added.
“We strongly urge the UK government to rethink its decision to severely cut the funding for the BBC World Service to enable the continued transmissions of BBC Hindi on short wave radio,” the signatories said.
Other signatories to the statement included Delhi-based British authors Gillian Wright and William Dalrymple, environmentalist Sunita Narain, columnists Kuldip Nayyar and Inder Malhotra, India Today editorial director M.J. Akbar, journalist Sam Miller, activist Swami Agnivesh, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and India’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi.