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How World Service is conquering the globe.

Audiences for the BBC World Service have reached record levels, figures showed today.

It now attracts 163 million listeners per week - up from 149 million last year.

The new figure smashes the previous BBC World Service record of 153 million listeners in 2001. Global audiences to the service's English language broadcasts are up from 39 million to 42 million.

The rise comes despite the Corporation axeing ten of its foreign language radio services in October last year, the majority of them in eastern Europe.

Audience figures are significantly up in Nigeria, Indonesia, Kenya, India and Nepal.

Recent unrest in Nepal has seen the number of listeners rise from 2.6 million to 3.7 million.

India has added 1.2 million listeners to reach 17.6 million, Kenya is up 1.5 million to six million and Indonesia is up two million to 6.4 million.

In Nigeria, BBC services gained 3.6 million listeners, raising the total audience to 23.8 million.

Two years ago the Nigerian Government banned local FM stations from re-broadcasting news programmes from foreign broadcasters. Listeners have turned to short-wave broadcasts as a result.

BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman said: "This record-breaking audience is an outstanding achievement against the background of fierce competition, fast-developing technology and rapidly changing audience demands in many media markets.

"The challenges ahead for BBC World Service remain formidable, as they do for all broadcasters, but this is a strong and welcome indication that we are not only strengthening our impact in priority areas but are flourishing in the multimedia age."

Two countries which have registered significant falls are Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Audiences in Bangladesh fell by 4.4 million to 8.6 million in the last year.

A BBC spokesman blamed the losses on a lack of FM frequency in those countries. Over the last six months the World Service has closed its language services in Hungarian, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Greek, Slovak, Slovene, Kazakh and Thai.

The money saved is being used to fund an Arabic TV news channel, which will launch next year. It will be the BBC's first publicly funded global TV service.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 15, 2006
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