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Russia17 August 2007

BBC dropped from Russia’s FM waveband

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed by the Russian government’s decision, announced on 17 August, to eliminate the BBC from the FM waveband in Russia.

“There is absolutely no justification, either political or technical, for this censorship,” the press freedom organisation said. “Is Russia taking the lead from China or Zimbabwe, where the BBC is jammed? We hope a rapid solution will be found to this problem and that the BBC will soon be available on FM again.”

The broadcasting of the BBC’s Russian-language programming on FM ended on 17 August 2007. The British broadcaster’s last Russian partner, Bolshoye Radio, has had to terminate the relationship on the insistence of the Russian authorities. Finam, the group that owns the station, said it had been told by regulators that its contract did not allow it to retransmit programmes produced by other broadcasters.

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

Sambrook called on the Russian authorities to respect the licensing accord with Bolshoye Radio, claiming that it allowed for a fifth of its programming to be foreign-produced. Meanwhile, Finam spokesman Igor Ermachenkov told the Associated Press: “It’s no secret that the BBC was established as a broadcaster of foreign propaganda.”

Relations between Russia and the United Kingdom have worsened considerably since the start of an investigation into the death of former KGB officer Alexandre Litvinenko from poisoning in London last November.

Moscow-based Radio Arsenal stopped retransmitting the BBC’s programming on FM at the end of 2006, while St. Petersburg-based Radio Leningrad followed suit in early 2007. The BBC’s Russian-language programmes can still be heard on short wave and on the Internet.




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