BBC cuts World Service funding by 16%

This has already been extensively reported on in the British press, but I thought it deserved a mention for anyone not from the UK:

The government was accused of damaging Britain’s reputation overseas as the BBC said cuts to the World Service mean it will lose at least 30 million listeners. Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s global news director responsible for implementing the cuts, which will see 650 jobs lost, said they risked damaging the World Service’s reputation and the positive benefits it brought to Britain…

The BBC is being forced to implement the cuts after the World Service’s funding from the Foreign Office was reduced by 16% in the government’s comprehensive spending review in October. Programmes to be axed from the World Service’s main English language radio station include Something Understood, Europe Today, World Of Music, Letter From, and Crossing Continents…

World Service radio broadcasts to western Europe – including south-east England – Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union, Turkey, India and China will be among the casualties… Foreign language broadcasting to Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, the Caribbean and in Portuguese for Africa are also closing. Shortwave broadcasts in Hindi, Mandarin and Swahili will cease…  Horrocks told staff BBC management estimated that the cuts would result in the World Service losing more than 30 million listeners out of its global audience of 180 million.

This is perhaps to be expected in austerity Britain – and it won’t ultimately change much. But millions of people around the world rely on the BBC to provide news and cultural content that isn’t available on their local radio and TV stations. If you’re a young kid in, say, Africa or Central Asia, you’re probably going to listen to the BBC World Service on a daily basis – it’ll perhaps be your only window on the outside world, if you live in a small village or an isolated, rural spot. The World Service is a major asset for Britain in terms of its global cultural (and even political) influence. To cut services that everyone knows will never return when the economic situation improves is shameful – and practically useless in terms of deficit reduction. As of 2010, the service’s budget was £272 million per year. That means that the unrivalled cultural influence of the World Service costs the average Briton £4.40 per year – about the price of a meal at McDonald’s. A bargain at twice the price, as they say.

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