Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is BBC Urdu listening?

A small item on says that the opening lines for the BBC Urdu programme says 'Yeh BBC Pakistan hai' instead of the usual 'Yeh BBC London hai'. It is sad, if that is the case. The last time I heard BBC radio news programmes (few years back) there used to be no mention of Pakistan (in the Urdu services) or India (in the Hindi services). BBC radio is one of the most popular and widely heard news services in India.

During my school vacations to my village in North India, dozens of people would be glued to the radio religiously listening to their favourite voices. As the brief on the (contributed by a regular BBC listener) rightly says 'What of BBC's Urdu speaking listeners in India'. That's the question people in India should be and are rightly asking. Are there no Urdu speakers, listeners left in India?

Comparatively, BBC Urdu listeners in Pakistan might be higher than in India, but the number of listeners in India won't be insignificant. I gave a byte on the marriage of Dawood Ibrahim's daughter to Javed Miandad's son to BBC radio and received calls from relatives and friends in North India. Interestingly, in 2007, BBC Urdu website was looking for 'citizen editors' in Indian universities (Lucknow, Bhopal, Aligarh and Hyderabad) with large Urdu-speaking population.

Is it a survey, study that gave BBC an idea of its Urdu service being heard only in Pakistan, which reportedly made it change its opening line? I remember the news items covered by the radio services and believe that the Urdu service was a great source of news on Pakistan for Indians and possibly also vice versa.

Among the more famous voices of BBC Urdu are Shakeel Akhtar and Altaf Hussain (based in New Delhi and Srinagar respectively). They also speak to prominent Urdu journalists from India for their programmes. Balraj Sahni, the celebrated actor was one of those who worked in the BBC Hindustani service (that preceded BBC Urdu) when it was launched in 1940.

How on earth can BBC Urdu be BBC Pakistan? The same way, BBC Hindi can't be BBC Hindustan (hopefully it is not so).

1 comment:

  1. It is pleasure to know your interest in Urdu. I love Urdu very much which I learned from my mother on Sundays and used to write to her in
    Urdu till her death. I had no formal schooling in urdu, but I love this beautiful language. Years ago when I used to listen to BBC urdu service, there was a program called KUTUB KHANA presented by Raza Ali Abdi, who used to give glimpses of urdu writers related to nawabs and kings. Sadly after that I could not track it. Keep writing. Best wishes.