For decades radio world services have broadcast to its citizens scattered around the globe so that they could listen to the news in their own language and not miss out on those important stories from back home.
Simultaneously, these services focussed on areas of the world where media repression or armed conflict prevented balanced intakes on international events and current affairs.
But their end has become a painful possibility. In 2011 the world’s five main world services (VOA, BBC, RFI, DW, RNW) were all told massive cuts to their funding were on the way.
Last year the BBC announced the full closure of five languages and the end of radio broadcasting in other seven until 2014.
Deutsche Welle has also reduced its daily 260 short wave broadcasting hours to 55, shifting its focus to online broadcast and partnerships with FM radio stations.
But probably the biggest axe of all has been to Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW). The Dutch government approved a 70% cut from €46 million to €14 million per year.
It’s old news – the decision was taken on June 2011. But the reality has just sunk in.
On May 11 the Dutch language service was broadcast for the last time. It was the first to feel the cold cut of what is to follow. Other languages such as Portuguese, Papiamento and Bahasa are likely to have the same destiny.
Dubbed ‘camping radio’ (because of Dutch holiday-goers who used to tune in while abroad), it filled in the air waves for 65 years. The last 10 minutes of the broadcast are in an emotional video highlighting the best of the Dutch language service.
The 70% cut means that 270 of its 350 staff has to go. For the past year, it has been common among RNW’s employees to find in their inbox the subject line ‘Afscheid’ (Goodbye).
RNW will focus on the free-word in the Arab world, English and French speaking Africa, China, Venezuela and Cuba. It will also be targeting a younger audience. But with so little resources many wonder what kind of contribution the broadcast will be able to offer. Some anticipate this move to simply be the slow death of a media trademark of the 20th century: the world service.