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BBC Bangla turns 70 with TV debate

BBC’s Bengali services, known as BBC Bangla, marked its 70th anniversary – and 40 years of Bangladeshi independence – with a special television debate about the changing media scene in Bangladesh.

Freedom of Information in the Internet Age was broadcast yesterday. The long discussion about the challenges raised by the rapid spread of television and advent of social media in the country was moderated by BBC Bangla editor Sabir Mustafa.

Mr Mustafa wrote in an editorial in The Daily Star: “Although BBC Bangla is celebrating its 70th anniversary in December, it was on 11 October 1941 that the BBC’s Bengali-language programme was launched, with a 15-minute talk written by the author George Orwell. At that time, it was just a weekly programme.

“Seventy years later, BBC Bangla broadcasts two morning and two evening programmes every day. There are hard-hitting interviews, radio documentaries, radio and online features, and live phone-in programmes.

“Over the years, the BBC has developed a close partnership with the state broadcaster, Bangladesh Betar, to relay English and Bengali programmes on FM in major cities across the country.

“BBC Bangla has evolved with time: expansion on FM, mobile-phone bulletins, use of Facebook and website and gaining a presence at the television landscape of Bangladesh.

“The passage of time has changed many things: the way BBC Bangla works, the technology it uses, the market in which it operates and the listening habits of its audiences. But one thing has not changed – the high regard in which it is held in Bangladesh.”