The BBC Has Revived An Old-School Radio Service To Help Ukraine As TV And Internet Is Attacked By Russia

Two World Service shortwave radio frequencies, which can be received in Kyiv and parts of Russia, set up for people disconnected by Putin.
A blast is seen in the TV tower, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kiev.
A blast is seen in the TV tower, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kiev.

The BBC has turned to an increasingly obsolete form of radio broadcasting to help people in Ukraine keep up-to-date with news as Russia bombs TV towers and attacks internet services.

The corporation said on Wednesday that the two new shortwave radio frequencies – 15735 kHz and 5875 kHz – will broadcast World Service news in English for four hours a day. These frequencies can be received clearly in Kyiv and parts of Russia, the BBC said.

Shortwave transmissions of the World Service, an international news service broadcast in English and 40 other languages, have been steadily reduced since 2001 amid the growth of online news and digital radio. The BBC stopped broadcasting to Europe on shortwave in 2008.

Shortwave radio frequencies – which can be heard via cheap portable receivers and are infamous for the crackly reception – have historically been used during international conflicts, and it was the main medium used by warring nations to speak to the populations of their enemies during the World War II.

On Tuesday, two Russian missiles struck the TV tower in Kyiv. Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said the Kremlin was preparing to cut off a large part of Ukraine from the internet and communications. “Its goal is to break the resistance of the people and the army,” he tweeted.

The BBC also said millions of people in Russia are turning to the broadcaster for independent information about the country’s invasion of Ukraine as an alternative to state-sponsored programing.

The weekly audience for the BBC’s Russian language news website more than tripled following the invasion compared to its weekly average from earlier this year, it said, reaching a record 10.7 million people in the last week compared to a usual average of 3.1 million.

Visits to the English-language site in Russia were up 252 percent to 423,000 last week alone, the corporation said.

Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, said: “It’s often said truth is the first casualty of war.

“In a conflict where disinformation and propaganda is rife, there is a clear need for factual and independent news people can trust – and in a significant development, millions more Russians are turning to the BBC.”

The BBC, which is facing questions over its future as the government considers ending the licence fee, has won praise for reviving shortwave in Europe during the conflict.

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