The BBC Empire Service began broadcasting on shortwave on December 19, 1932 and was aimed principally at English speakers across the British Empire.
On May 1, 1965 the service took its current name of BBC World Service and expanded its reach with the opening of the Ascension Island relay in 1966, serving African audiences with a stronger signal and better reception, and the later relay on the Island of Masirah.
In August 1985, the service went off air for the first time, when workers went on strike in protest at the British government’s decision to ban a documentary featuring an interview with Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin.
In recent years, financial pressures have decreased the number and type of services offered by the BBC. In countries with wide access to Internet services, there is less need for a radio station. Broadcasts in German ended in March 1999, after research showed that the majority of German listeners tuned into the English service. Broadcasts in Dutch, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese and Malay were stopped for similar reasons.