The gradual demise of the BBC Somali Service was apparent over the past several years, but the final blow was not dealt on it until now. The VOA Somali Service’s new dawn show has finished up whatever is left of the BBC Somali Service with fresh stories and exceptionally skilled broadcasters.

If you want to judge the dichotomy for yourself, then just compare the two services’ output this week, especially the two dawn programs, which are only separated by their respective theme music. The VOA’s new, 30-minute show goes on air at 6:30 am Somalia time. The BBC goes on air at 7:00 in the morning (yawn!).

The difference is day and night. And here’s why: on Sunday July 19, the two services covered the same event in London, in commemoration of Somali journalists killed in Somalia. But that’s about what they had in common. The depth of the coverage, the originality, the breath of freshness, and most importantly the journalistic substance were radically unparalleled.

Characteristically, the BBC Somali Service settled for its decaying ways of covering news events: a simple, over-the-phone interview with a participant. Said Ali Muse, the lone soldier on duty that dawn was not only late to fire up the theme music by about 2 minutes, but he decided to fill the airtime with a random noise he recorded while in Ghana on a recent trip to over Obama. He tried to convince us, the reluctant listeners, that despite the pale and the clearly uninteresting nature of the noise he inadvertently recorded, that all he wanted was to “give us a sense of how tense the situation on the ground was.” I, for one, didn’t buy it.

In fact, I wasn’t sure if I should feel sorry for his lame excuse, or whether I should call my MP in the British Parliament and lodge a screaming complaint against wasting my hard-earned tax money for a random noise from Ghana. I’m still mulling over it.

To the contrary, the VOA covered the London event with a class. Haarun Ma’aruf, with his deep but intelligent voice, prepared a feature story about it, skillfully linking the input of three participants in that same event. The distance advantage didn’t even give the BBC an edge. It was a no-brainer.

The same day, the VOA also aired another feature story by Abdiaziz Sadam about the two French hostages. A legal expert in Canada was enlisted to shed a light on the legal ramifications, and a Somali writer in the USA was inquired to analyze. Moreover, VOA’s Galka’ayo reporter interviewed the head of a new Somali band, Waayaha Cusub. Then, fittingly, we enjoyed a song by the group.

Regular on VOA’s new breakfast show is an item about the rate of exchange and the prices of basic foods in Somalia, a run-down of newspaper headlines, a sports feature and letters from us, the committed audience, not to mention a daily song and mostly funny jokes (sometimes unfunny details, I might add). That’s plenty of items in a half an hour show.

Conversely, the BBC fills its airtime with recycled items from the archive, billed as an “interesting” stuff. Hardly so. The desperation of poor coverage is profoundly clear.
Over the last week, when the BBC filled its invaluable airtime with audio from years ago, repacked as fresher material, the VOA has aired comprehensive feature programs analyzing the day’s news with fresh ideas, reliable sources and just a smart and nifty approach to newsgathering.
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Meanwhile, the flight of the BBC staff remains unabated. In fact, part of why the VOA’s new dawn show constitutes a final blow to the BBC is Abdirahman Ainte’s decision to join the VOA. This exceptionally skilled broadcaster whose utility of the Somali language is proverbial, has redefined the Somali media as we know it. His keen interest in the sudden implosion of Islamist ideology in Somalia is profound. Few weeks ago, he moderated one of the best Sunday discussion programs featuring the best known Islamic scholars. He also prepared a series of features retracting the history of Islamists in Somalia.

With the advent of the VOA, the BBC Somali Service has tattered, capitulated forcing it to reach its saturation point. It outlived its purpose. There’s no more reason it should exist, unless the British government wants us to enjoy the antiquated noises of the old guard whose relevance is clearly outmoded.

As a British citizen, I’m ashamed of my government’s decision to keep this failed ship steam ahead. But I must recoil and congratulate the American government for giving the Somali people another lease in media life.

By Ayan Ali Gallad.


  1. I don't listen to Somali radios or radio for that matter but Ayaan you nailed it! Im aware alot of former BBC-Somali broadcasters joined VOA, BBC is one man show whatever his name was Garad or something. It's history.

  2. thanks Ayaan for this great article. however, anigu waxay ila tahay inay dhibaatada BBCda haysata ay ka timid dadkeena, musuqmaasuqa ka jira waad ogtahiin, oo shaqaalaha laguma qaato aqoontiisee waxaa lagu qaataa qabiilkiisa iyo cidduu yaqaan. waxaa ka sii daran adduunku wuu isbedelay iyaguna intey refreshment sameyn lahayeen ayaa shaqaalahoodu badankoodu ay yihiin kuwii lixdankii shaqayn jirey? gap weyn ayaa jira between dhagaysayaasha iyo weriyayaasha bbcda. maxaad ula yaabey siciid cali muse, waxaa uu ku nool yahay Somalia oo ay wax walba ka suurtowdo inuu weriyuhu sameeyo! I think VOA waxay garatey meelaha dhibaatadu ka jirto, suxufiyiin aqoonleh, dhallinyaro ah aadna u firfircoon ayay qaateen iyagoo iska fasaxey lodkii hore intoodii badnaa. (somaligaan biday inaan isticmaalo si ay fadeexaddeeni banaanka u soo bixin)

  3. Thanks for the great article. However, I believe the BBC problem is attributable to corrupted and not getting any younger experienced Somali staff. It is well known that bbc Somali hires based on people’s tribes and who they know, regardless of qualification, achievements and skills! At the same time most of staff working in the BBC are those who started journalism 40 year ago, which highlights the huge gap between the audience and the correspondents. Besides, why are you surprised by Said Ali Musa behavior, he lives and got trained in Somalia, where everything is allowed while reporting the news!!

  4. With the plethora of news organizations in the Horn of Africa, including, newspapers, internet, cable, satellite, radio stations, I wonder if any of the overseas Somali services are relevant to the people of the region. I doubt that, neither the BBC Somali Service nor its VOA counterpart are held in the same esteem as they once were. Sadly, their journalism has lost its inclusiveness and most importantly, balanced reporting.

  5. BBC and VOA are the two sides of the same coin. Both are faqash operated radios, we need Somaliland's own radio Hargeisa

  6. Thank you Ayaan, its time those clowns were shown the door and i say this as a freelancer who gets all his work from the bbc although in no way related to news or the Somali Service. lets make those guys accountable and deliver a proper service or else.

  7. May I ask where is Hargeisa Radio that our Minister has been saying its almost complete and ready for 7 years. I think our government likes us to listening to the BBC and VOA to erade any sense of pride in our nation achievements.

  8. BBC Somali remains the choice of all, regardless what some pple say about it or its young but talent editor, Garad.

  9. Do you really think you can fool everybody with a Hargeysaawi as your last name lol try again Garaad

  10. I do believe Radio Hargeisa has been up and running since the early 90's. although at that time it was limited to Hargeisa and its surrounding areas. A new relay system has been set up since early this year and from reliable source (i.e. listeners in Somaliland, the region and as far as the Arabian peninsula have been able to hear it)..So, Radio Hargeisa is alive and well.