HL Deb 24 July 1980 vol 412 cc505-6

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to facilitate audible BBC broadcasting in the Russian and Persian languages to Afghanistan.


My Lords, the only broadcasts specifically directed to Afghanistan by the BBC are those in the Farsi language, which is understood by about half of the population. The BBC Russian services are aimed at the Soviet Union but some of them are heard also in parts of Afghanistan. The BBC's capital expenditure programme to improve audibility is already under way, and includes improvement of the audibility of the Russian services.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. I wonder, though, how aware he is of the very slender resources available to the BBC in broadcasting to Afghanistan in terms of staff and, more importantly, in terms of equipment and particularly transmitter equipment? Does he not agree that at a time of great crisis in the world, and in particular in that part of the world, it is not appropriate to implement cuts in the BBC service in that area in particular; and will he undertake to take a particular look at the broadcasting services to Afghanistan and see whether broadcasting to the Soviet troops can be brought in as a short-term measure, perhaps through the medium of the Masirah link?


My Lords, some of the broadcasts to Afghanistan are already made through the Masirah link to which my noble friend refers. Indeed, to judge by recent Soviet media attacks on the BBC's External Services, the Farsi broadcasts are clearly audible in Afghanistan and are proving highly effective.


My Lords, may we take it that these BBC broadcasts in the Persian language are monitored and that translations of them are available in the Foreign Office if anyone cares to consult them?


My Lords, I cannot say for sure that we receive a transcript of every word that is transmitted over the BBC's External Services, but we certainly know the general drift of what is being said.


My Lords, would my noble friend consider that the broadcasts to Turkey are of strategic importance, particularly bearing in mind that they are made for only two hours per week, as opposed to two and a half hours a week to Greece?


My Lords, the broadcasts to Turkey are of course important, but they do not fall under the Question on the Order Paper.

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