In 1994 the BBC Azeri Service was the 40th to be added to the vast list of languages the BBC World Service broadcasts in. On 25 March it broadcast its last radio program, after the BBC budget cuts forced several services to be shut down.
Despite assertions that this move to shut down the BBC Azeri radio service is just playing into the hands of the Aliyev regime, head of BBC Central Asia and Caucasus Service Hamid Ismailov counters this argument, saying that the Azeri service will continue its activities online, and the cuts only mean that there will no longer be radio broadcasts. He adds that this will allow the service to concentrate on its online operations, where a much broader range of activity is possible: the fact that the Azerbaijani population mainly consists of youths means that broadcasts via Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social networking tools are attracting large audiences – the BBC can and should make use of these.
In an interview to the BBC Azeri service during its last radio broadcast, Regional Editor for Caucasus at Global Voices Online Onnik Krikorian says he prefers to see new and social media as simply a tool: saying that it creates revolutions would be incorrect, as that depends on those who utilize this media. He notes that users of Twitter and Facebook in Azerbaijan are very active, whereas in Armenia this is not the case – yet looking at the number of people taking part in protests, the opposite is true. “I think it is very interesting to look at the way use of new media is progressing in these regions. The government is very aware of this progress, so the main objective now is not to let them to take over new media in the future.”
Blogger and youth activist Emin Milli had this to say: “Looking at the BBC Azeri service in the field of media, it is more of a charity organization rather than a business. With regard to politics, you cannot put all countries on the same level. In democratic countries like Great Britain, such decisions can still be influenced. So I think that, even if this resolution takes effect from 1 April, it can be changed at some point.”
Final radio broadcast of BBC Azeri