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BBC Suspends Broadcasts in Sri Lanka, Citing Interference

The broadcaster stops airing after “unacceptable and misleading” programming disruptions by its government-owned carrier.

The BBC’s World Service has stopped all broadcasts in Sri Lanka, following "continued interruption and interference" to its programming by state-owned carrier, the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

The BBC says it believes its programming was deliberately interfered with on March 16-18, and again on March 25. 

"We regret the disruption in service to our loyal audiences in Sri Lanka, but such targeted interference in our programs is a serious breach of trust with those audiences, which the BBC cannot allow," World Service director Peter Horrocks told the Guardian on Tuesday.

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The BBC has suspended its Sri Lanka broadcasts before. In 2009, the company temporarily stopped airing due to similar governmental interference.

"We spoke to SLBC last week and warned them they were in breach of their broadcasting agreement, Horrocks said. “Further disruption … has left the BBC with no alternative but to suspend the service with immediate effect.”

"If the SLBC have specific complaints about any BBC output they should take them up with us, as we have invited them to do and not interfere directly with broadcasts in ways that are unacceptable to the BBC and misleading to our audiences."

The BBC hasn’t indicated what elements of its programming the local authorities deemed sensitive or offensive enough to block. 

The BBC's pullout from Sri Lanka follows similar complaints made by the BBC World Service and Voice of America in China, alleging that the country has been intentionally jamming radio broadcasts of its news, current affairs, science and entertainment programming. The situation led to the Association for International Broadcasting releasing a public condemnation of the Chinese government, which said at the time it wasn't aware of any such interference.