BBC ends Sairbeen broadcast on Aaj TV alleging interference

Published January 16, 2021
Aliya Nazki presenting Sairbeen on the BBC — Jeff Overs/BBC/File
Aliya Nazki presenting Sairbeen on the BBC — Jeff Overs/BBC/File

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Friday said it would no longer broadcast its Urdu service news and current affairs programme – Sairbeen – on Aaj TV owing to "interference" with its bulletins.

The move means BBC Urdu bulletins will no longer be available for television viewers in Pakistan.

BBC World Service Director Jamie Angus said the BBC had experienced "interference in our news bulletins since October 2020" and that the organisation had given "ample time" to Aaj TV to resolve the issue.

"[We] gave Aaj TV ample time for their efforts to facilitate returning the programme to air. Since this interference continued, despite efforts in good faith on both sides, the BBC had no alternative but to end the partnership with immediate effect. We regret any disruption to our loyal audiences in Pakistan."

He said viewers could continue to access the BBC Urdu's programme through their website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

"Any interference in our programmes represents a serious breach of trust with our audiences, which the BBC cannot allow," the director said in his message.

According to a report by BBC Urdu, the BBC World Service had started broadcasting the programme on Aaj TV under a partnership agreement in 2014.

"According to the agreement, which is based on similar policies as the BBC's arrangements with several countries, the BBC structures the programme according to its independent editorial policy and in accordance with the local language and local audience, and the local TV channel [then] broadcasts that programme," the report stated.

The BBC has inked such agreements with private channels in several countries but the editorial policy remains under the control of the BBC, it added.

In 2019, BBC Urdu had ended radio broadcasts of Sairbeen, saying its priority going forward would be digital media platforms and television.

The decision to end the media outlet's shortwave broadcasts was taken "to better serve the BBC's listeners, readers and viewers in Pakistan and to achieve the objective of proper utilisation of our resources", a BBC Urdu report had said at the time.

According to that report, a BBC public survey in 2018 revealed that the number of listeners of radio on shortwave had vastly fallen in Pakistan due to rapidly increasing TV audiences and widespread access to digital media.

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