Plans to shut down the BBC World Service's Bangla division, FM100 on the radio, were on for a while but finally has become a reality. It will not continue beyond Feb-March next year.
What became the “Voice” of the media in many Bangladesh minds will shut down. All media forms and content will be amalgamated and BBC online will be the new heir of the legacy and task.
BBC was always the most important radio service to Bangladeshis even before 1971 but during the war of liberation it became the Voice which everyone listened to wherever radio was. While Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro was representative of the Bangladesh movement, BBC provided accurate news and international support. It signified the global nature and support of the Bangladesh war. And it found a place in the heart that remains.
Its Dhaka correspondent Nizamuddin Ahmed was picked up on December 12 by the Al-Badr and never heard from again. He remains one of the great symbols of courage and dedication even in times of war.
BBC after 1971
It was after 1971 under an independent flag that saw the reputation of the BBC grow. Its great advantage was the problematic relationship the Bangladesh state has had with the media. More the media felt under pressure, the more the BBC's freedom to report grew. And the hunger for information was satisfied by the BBC broadcast mostly and other foreign outlets.
There were certain circumstances which made this possible. It was an external outlet located in London. The state/government had no control over what was broadcast. And even in the UK, the Government had no official control either. BBC was funded by license fees making it independent of funding. The funding situation has changed now and it’s this lack of resources along with the decline of radio as a medium for content providing that has pushed BBC to make such a tough decision to shut down several language services.
BBC has had some sterling members who are fondly remembered. Among them two stand out, one is Mark Tully and the other is Ataus Samad. Both became symbols of the BBC and Mark Tully who also covered the 1971 from Kolkata is remembered with respect and affection.
Ataus Samad was the Bangladesh correspondent of the BBC from the 80s onwards and became one of the most authentic pilgrims of the profession. He was so meticulous about his accuracy that he would almost be late sometimes because he would not send his report unless he was absolutely sure. Its stars like him who contributed so much to make BBC what it became.
What also signified BBC radio in Bangladesh were its regular series produced on various topics including 1971 history. I produced 3 series on 1971 history– women in 1971, children in 1971, and a mega series on 1971history - apart from many short series , reports and discussions. The information collected to do this work is of great assistance to general research on the topic. But other series reports on sexuality, elderly, child labour, etc were path breaking products in Bangladesh media. BBC did lead in this sector too.
All good things do come to an end when the time comes and the wheels of change will bring forth new media forms and content and are welcomed. But the memory of BBC Bangla radio will live on. Good-bye.