The BBC has launched a mobile audio bulletin service in Burma, allowing mobile phone users in the country to receive updates on the country's news twice a day.
The service, which will also offer special bulletins for breaking news, will upload fresh reports at 8am and 6.30pm each day, which the public can access via a specified phone number.
“BBC Burmese radio has been the most trusted source of news in Burma throughout decades of repression," Indu Shekhar Sinha, BBC World Service head of business development Asia Pacific, told Journalism.co.uk, "and now, as the country lives through change and liberalisation, providing mobile news from BBC Burmese in audio comes as a natural choice.”
Mobile penetration in Burma, also known as Myanmar, is low, with reports from the Economist and the GSM (Groupe Speciale Mobile) Association putting the number of subscriptions at fewer than 10 per cent of the population, but the Burmese government aims to increase this to 80 per cent by 2016 by promoting cheaper SIM cards and giving licenses to foreign providers.
BBC Burmese, which produces morning and evening news broadcasts from London and Bangkok, has a weekly audience of 8.4 million according to the BBC.
“The number of mobile users is set to grow exponentially," continued Indu Shekhar Sinha. " Burma currently has very low levels of mobile penetration, and this is likely to change with the prices of mobile handsets and SIM cards falling."
These developments come two years after the Burmese government initiated reforms, releasing political prisoners and relaxing laws on trade and press freedoms among other measures to modernise the previously isolated country. Yet campaign groups are still wary of government restrictions and humanitarian problems remain.
“BBC Burmese – as well as the rest of the BBC’s international news services – reports all sides of opinion in Burma," said Tin Htar Swe, editor of BBC Burmese and BBC World Service South Asia Hub. "Our loyal audience includes policy makers across the political spectrum as well as listeners from across the whole the country.
"We will continue to provide our audiences – be it on radio, online on bbcburmese.com, on Facebook or, now, on mobile phones – with the independent and impartial journalism that has made us the most trusted broadcaster in Burma.”
The audio bulletin service, which is already used by BBC Bangla (Bangladesh) and BBC Hausa (Nigeria) will soon be joined by SMS updates as part of the same deal with Burmese mobile aggregator, Blue Ocean Operating Management, but a date has not yet been set.
"Thanks to this new collaboration, BBC World Service has become the first international media organisation to provide international news on the mobile platform in Burma," Tin Htar Swe added.
Subscribers in Burma can hear the bulletins by calling 01-2399600.
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