Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Foreign and Commonwealth Office/BBC World Service

Broadcasting Agreement

  1.  This Agreement defines the relationship between the FCO and the BBC World Service, including the aims and objectives of the World Service, its target audiences and provisions for performance assessment. Arrangements relating to the application and administration of the Grant-in-Aid and additional income of the BBC World Service and agreement on related matters are set out in a separate Financial Memorandum between the FCO and the BBC.


  2.  The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (hereafter referred to as the Secretary of State) is responsible for the foreign policy of the United Kingdom. The aim of the Foreign and Commonwealth office is to promote the interests of the United Kingdom and to contribute to a strong world community. The FCO's Mission Statement and current long-term objectives are set out at Annex A [2][3].

  3.  The FCO funds the World Service through a Grant-in-Aid to provide services defined in this agreement. The ambit of the FCO Request for Resources expressly includes a Grant-in-Aid to the BBC in respect of the World Service for broadcasting. The Secretary of State in responsible for agreeing with the BBC World Service its objectives and medium-term priority target audiences defined geographically and by audience segment, and appropriate performance measures.


  4.  The BBC World Service is a constituent part of the BBC, sharing its general objectives and obligations as a public service broadcaster. The responsibilities of the BBC are set out in the Royal Charter (Cm 3248) and Agreement (Cm 3152). See in particular Charter Article 3 "Objects of the Corporation", sub-paragraph (g). Article 5 "Provision and Review of Services" and Article 16 "Financial" paragraph (1), and the Agreement clause 9. The World Service's Mission Statement and current objectives as agreed with the FCO are set out at Annex B.

  5.  The World Service has full editorial independence and integrity. The Director World Service & Global News is responsible to the Director-General and Board of Governors of the BBC for editorial policy and standards, managerial competence and the delivery of a value for money service.

  6.  Charter Article 7 sub-paragraphs (1) (b) and (h) set out the responsibilities of the BBC Governors with particular regard to the World Service. A BBC Governor has special responsibility for the World Service and chairs a Governors' Consultative Group on the World Service.

  7.  The BBC World Service is obliged under the Charter and Agreement to obtain the written approval of the Secretary of State for the opening or closure of any language service, and for other matters and activities set out in the Charter, with particular reference to Article 3 "Objectives of the Corporation", sub-paragraphs (i), (u)[4], (w), (x); Article 4 "Restriction on Overseas Concessions"; Article 7 "Constitution", sub-paragraph (1) (h); and the Agreement clause 9 "The World Service".


  8.  Six agreed key principles underpin the relationship between the FCO and the BBC World Service:

  (i)  the World Service has full editorial and managerial independence and integrity;

  (ii)  the FCO will define the external broadcasting service it requires clearly through robust objectives and performances measures;

  (iii)  the BBC will decide the most effective and efficient way of delivering the service defined;

  (iv)  the BBC will be provided with stable funding, based on a medium-term agreement with Government paralleling arrangements for the BBC's Licence Fee Funded operations, and on the development of additional revenue streams;

  (v)  the World Service is permitted to generate additional income on its grant-funded activities (with all proposals being first subject to compliance with the BBC's own Fair Trading Commitment and Commercial Policy Guidelines) and any surplus will be used for Grant-in-Aid purposes subject to FCO approval;

  (vi)  the BBC will obtain audit assurances that there has been no material subsidy between Grant-in-Aid and Licence Fee funds.


BBC World Service Accountability

  9.  FCO Ministers and the BBC World Service will annually agree performance targets based on agreed objectives and review performance and medium-term priority target audiences both by geography (eg by country) and audience segment. The World Service will advise the FCO on the competitive broadcasting environment and the effectiveness and efficiency with which it can reach these audiences. In addition the FCO and the World Service will agree and monitor World Service efficiency and effectiveness targets.

World Service Strategic: Three Year Plan

  10.  The BBC World Service will produce and agree with the FCO a strategic Three Year Plan to deliver the agreed objectives and reach the agreed target audiences, taking account of the Whitehall planning framework. This will take account of regional strategies discussed with the FCO and agreed during the formulation of the Plan.

Review and Performance Assessment

  11.  The FCO and World Service will meet regularly at working level. These contacts may be used to review World Service plans and performance, both by region and globally. The World Service regions and FCO geographical commands will maintain a regular dialogue which will inform the World Service of FCO thinking on the region concerned and the FCO about World Service activities.

  12.  FCO Ministers, the Chairman of the BBC, the BBC Governor with special responsibility for the World Service and the Director World Service & Global News will meet annually to review performance against agreed objectives and targets and to consider future audience and strategic priorities. These discussions will inform the strategic Three Year Plan.

  13.  The World Service will commission a rolling programme of research to assess its impact across target audiences. This will use outside agencies and will be independently validated. It will include where possible comparisons with relevant competitors. In any one year this programme will cover a representative range of target audiences. It will aim to review key target audiences at least every three years.

Arrangements for Review

  14.  This Agreement succeeds the previous Agreement dated 19 May 1999 and takes effect from date of signature. It will be reviewed at least every three years.

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the British Broadcasting Corporation

17 June 2002

2   Mission Statement, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Departmental Report 2002, p6 (not printed). Back

3   Current long-term objectives. FCO Departmental Report 2002 p22-23. Back

4   This sub-paragraph of the Charter refers to the Secretary of State for Heritage (now Culture, Media and Sport). However common practice has been that any of these matters regarding the World Service have been approved by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 14 November 2002