The British Broadcasting Company's (BBC) Turkish Service is slated to air its last radio program on May 27 due to a government budget cut.
The service's radio programs, which have been on the air for 72 years, are among the BBC services hit by government budget cuts on public spending. Twenty-five percent of the institution has been affected by the budget cuts as services in five languages, Macedonian, Albanian, Serbian, Caribbean English and African Portuguese, have been shut down.
Among the Turkish Service's 19 employees, three resigned voluntarily, and the contracts of two will not be renewed, according to a decision taken by the BBC human resources department.
BBC Turkish Service Assistant Manager and Editor Murat Nişancıoğlu told the Anatolia news agency that the department was asked to end the radio programs along with the Russian service.
“It doesn't mean that the Turkish Service is being shut down, but we received a blow, of course. Everybody feels resentment for the shutting down of the radio because it is a 72-year-old tradition,” Nişancıoğlu said.
Nişancıoğlu called the decision to end the radio services a strategic decision by BBC senior management. “The BBC World Service didn't have television at all; the main area of activity was radio. … The senior management of the BBC World Service thought radio has lost power in some regions, and it is time to move on new platforms; and it took a decision in this direction.”
He explained that the main activity of the BBC Turkish Service was radio and that it had served important functions in certain periods, especially when the media was immature or faced limitations in Turkey.
Nişancıoğlu noted that now they have to focus on other services as radio will air the last program on May 27 at 6 p.m. Turkish local time.
The main area of activity will be the service's Internet page as the television broadcasts will support the Internet. “We will try to improve them both. We will try to strengthen our social media activities,” he said.
Hüseyin Sükan, the service's manager, is among the employees who quit. Nişancıoğlu will be the new head of the service.
BBC Turkish Service reporter and union member Güney Yıldız pointed out that the BBC World Service, currently funded by grant-in-aid through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British government, will be financed by compulsory BBC license fees like other branches of the BBC. While noting that there had been rumors regarding budget cuts in recent years, Yıldız said the speculation negatively affected the motivation of the employees at the service. A total of 100 employees lost their jobs as a result of the budget cuts, he added.
Yıldız said there are two powerful unions at the BBC, including the National Union of Journalists, and that a strike may take place in the following weeks.
Yıldız added that the BBC Turkish Service has a special place in Turkish broadcasting history. The radio continued broadcasting despite crises that hit Turkey including military takeovers, and it also delivered news that could not be presented in Turkey, he said.