Letter from Jeremy Dear, General Secretary,
National Union of Journalists (NUJ)|
I am writing to you to raise the National Union of
Journalist's (NUJ) concerns regarding the proposed changes to
the BBC World Service prior to the Foreign Affairs Committee session
on Wednesday 3 November 2010.
The budget for the World Service is currently provided
by the Foreign Office and is not funded from the licence fee.
Changes set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review mean that
in future the BBC will pay for the World Service which has £272
million annual running costs.
The NUJ is seriously concerned that the cuts are
likely to lead to service closures and significant redundancies.
The BBC World Service employs more than 2,000 people
and a significant proportion are based outside of the UK and spread
across 45 countries. The diversity of staff and presence in so
many locations around the world helps make the BBC World Service
the leading voice in international broadcasting.
At its best the World Service can challenge corruption,
expose human rights abuses and promote democratic values. By cutting
the service the Government will cut British influence in the rest
of the world and also damage objective quality international news.
- The BBC needs a spread of journalists working
around the world and specialising in different countries and regions
to be able to maintain quality international broadcasting. Stable
and un-strategic countries can often quickly become strategic
and unstable, especially in the current economic climate. The
BBC needs to maintain current levels of services so it can be
flexible in responding to the news agenda including climate disasters
and wars. After the last round of cuts there was a coup in Thailand
immediately after the BBC Thai service was cut and Greece has
been in crisis since the country service was closed.
- World Service radio provides a lifeline to people
in times of crisis. Recent examples include the disasters in Pakistan
- By cutting and/or offshoring services, the BBC
will lose the ability to control broadcasting in times of emergencies.
The host government will have the ability to shut down the World
Service at times when it is most needed - whether by switching
off the power, putting journalists in jail or just locking the
- Moving the service into the country can sometimes
hit the audience figures negatively. For instance, the Hindi Service
audience was reduced by almost 50% after most of their jobs were
relocated to Delhi and consequently money moves from being spent
on programmes to funding the travel expenses of managers.
- Journalists in the BBC World Service provide
expertise and assistance to BBC UK: the language skills and existing
contacts of journalists are brought to use when big stories break.
- Britain gets talent from the World Service: Matt
Frei and Rageh Omar came from the World Service. The talents of
journalists around the globe feed into the BBC and this directly
benefits the UK.
- World Service staff come to the UK on work visas
and would have to leave if they lose their jobs. Many journalists
have come to the UK to broadcast impartial news about shocking
regimes and could now find themselves being sent back if the service
closes. Journalists in these circumstances may face threats and
persecution simply for doing their job at the BBC.
- In May 2010 research highlighted by Mark Thompson
suggests that the BBC's news output is more important to Britain's
image overseas than the Royal Family or the Armed Forces: the
research sought the views of 500 "opinion formers and consumers"
who watched and listened to BBC news content - including the World
Service - in Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey and Kenya. Mark Thompson
told the Royal Institute of International Affairs: "They
were shown a list of different British organisations and initiatives
and asked whether they made them think more or less positively
about the country: the British Armed forces, the British Council,
the UK government, UK government foreign aid, and so on, and the
BBC. No fewer than 80% of people asked said that the BBC made
them think more positively about the UK, by the far the highest
of all the British institutions mentioned"
THE BBC WORLD
- The World Service for Azerbaijan exists in the
context of an authoritarian regime and the Azerbaijan courts have
jailed journalists and forced people leave the country. Bloggers
have been jailed and the BBC Azeri Service was cut off FM radio
waves last year and its web site is blocked in governmental agencies.
But it is possible to check the BBC website outside the government
buildings and people can listen to BBC radio programmes on shortwave.
The BBC Azeri Service is the only impartial and objective source
of news in the country and closing the Azeri Service would benefit
the current political regime.
- The Azeri Service is important for 25 million
Azeris people who live in Iran and are deprived of their
basic right to learn in their native languages.
- The NUJ supports the Early Day Motion (EDM 788)
on the BBC World Service and Human Rights which highlights the
BBC World Service as a world-class broadcasting network and a
lifeline for political prisoners and other suppressed persons.
Any move to cut this service, for example in Burma, will remove
vital access to current and impartial information from those such
as Aung San Suu Kyi who have no alternative source of unbiased
news. Cancelling the service would constitute a failure of the
Government to promote or support human rights on the international
- We are concerned that language services may close
entirely or be drastically cut.
- We expect service cuts as well as job cuts in
London and potential off-shoring of radio production work.
- The Russian service based in London may be reduced
or closed leaving only the service based in Russia. We expect
the Russian service radio output to be closed by the end of the
- There may be restructuring in the Central Asian
and Bengali services including cutting jobs in London and creating
posts in Bangladesh.
- The Arabic service may be cut, the service currently
exists online, on the radio and on TV.
- The Spanish American service has radio programmes
(about 15 minutes per day) that may be cut even though the service
was essential during the Haiti earthquake crisis.
- We also expect there may be job cuts in BBC World
Service newsroom in London.
We are waiting for more detailed plans regarding
proposed changes the World Service. The NUJ is committed to defending
vital public services and will continue to campaign to protect
the future of the BBC: we hope you will support us.
29 October 2010