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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 00:21 GMT

World: Europe

BBC's German Service goes off air

The German Service covered the demolition of the Berlin Wall

By Jan Repa

The BBC's German Service went off the air on Friday evening after more than 60 years of broadcasting from London.

The BBC began broadcasting in German in September 1938, at the height of the Munich crisis and exactly one year before the outbreak of World War II.

A short excerpt from the first broadcast of the German Service
Its earliest contributors included figures like the great exiled novelist, Thomas Mann.

The German Service covered the War, the post-war confrontation between East and West, which split Germany in two, as well as the coming down of the Berlin Wall and reunification.

It also reported the lowering of the flag at the GDR embassy in London by the East German chargé d'affaires in 1990.

The service was a training school for journalists who went on to make their careers in the German-speaking lands.

The decision to close the German Service is part of BBC plans to redirect resources to investment in digital technology, the Internet and English language programmes.

Audience research

The BBC says recent audience research shows that a large number of decision-makers in Germany now listen to World Service programmes in English.

This has met with a mixed response in Germany itself. The respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper remarked caustically: "We all now speak English well enough. And anyone who doesn't, isn't worthy of the BBC."

The last programme broadcast in German on Friday was a phone-in discussion on the future of radio broadcasting.

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