The Implications of Cuts to the BBC World Service - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 1-33)

Luke Crawley and Jeremy Dear

9 March 2011

  Q1 Chair: I welcome members of the public to this sitting of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is the first evidence session of the Committee's inquiry into the implications of BBC World Service cuts. We will be taking further oral evidence from the Foreign Secretary on 16 March. I welcome our two witnesses: Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, and a late stand-in, Luke Crawley, Assistant General Secretary of BECTU, as Gerry Morrissey has unfortunately broken or twisted his ankle and is unable to walk. We send him our best wishes and commiserations.

  Let me open the batting and ask, given the Foreign Office's need to cut its levels of public expenditure, whether you think that they had no alternative but to make cuts to the World Service, or whether you think that the axe should have fallen on other Foreign Office activities instead.

  Luke Crawley: The short answer is that the cuts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office budget, as I understand it, are of the order of magnitude of about 10%. However they've decided that the cuts in the money they give to the World Service should be of the order of 16%. My first point is that, if there was some equality or parity between the two levels—only a 10% cut—that would at least be seen to be equal treatment in all areas of Foreign Office spending.

  Q2 Chair: You would have accepted a 10% cut?

  Luke Crawley: I am not sure we would have accepted it, because there's a second point I'd make, which is that, in terms of the amount of money spent on the World Service—I believe it is about 0.5% of Government spending on international effort—it is small, but extremely good value. The audience it reaches is of the order of 2.5 billion on television, on radio and online and it is extremely effective at providing an impartial news service—I'm sure you know all this—but it is also seen by many people as a vital part of their day and it reaches audiences of a different kind. There are obviously people who can listen to FM on the internet, but shortwave is very effective at reaching a huge range of people who would not otherwise be able to access that kind of news and information.

  Jeremy Dear: We can make a strong case as to why we believe all the services should be saved, but we can make an even stronger case that the cuts in the World Service and BBC Monitoring are disproportionate to the cuts that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are facing and certainly disproportionate to the increase in the budget for the Department for International Development, for example, when the World Service quite clearly meets a number of development goals. We think that there are alternatives to these cuts. Obviously, if the FCO has cuts imposed on it, as part of a general comprehensive spending review, that's a matter for it, but what it passes on to the World Service is clearly disproportionate.

  Q3 Chair: I know you both don't agree with the cuts. You have made that perfectly clear. Can I put a hypothetical question to you? If you had to make the cuts yourselves, would you have made the same cuts or would you have had other priorities in the World Service? In other words, given that cuts were going to be made, are the priorities right?

  Jeremy Dear: There are two clear things that the BBC World Service depends on: properly resourced journalism and safe and secure transmission networks to broadcast its journalists' work. I certainly believe that many of the decisions around the ending of shortwave are wrong, in that they mean that we will rely much more on either the internet or FM transmission, which is much more susceptible to political pressure. There needs to be a re-looking at strategy for the BBC World Service, and therefore these are not necessarily the right cuts.

  Cuts have been made before to services where there was perceived to be a lack of geopolitical interest at that particular time. The last such situation that I remember was the Thai service, which was closed down days before thousands of people took to the streets of Thailand to overthrow the Government. It is easy to say, "We would cut this service." The Foreign Office needs to look again at the strategy, in particular based on those two principles.

  Luke Crawley: I would not disagree with what Jeremy has said. It is obviously extremely invidious to be asking us where we would make cuts, because any cuts that we proposed would be cuts in our members' jobs. Clearly, as trade unions, we're here to defend our members' jobs. But Jeremy's points about the importance of the World Service, and how it delivers an impartial news service without political interference by either the host country or any other, are extremely valuable.

  The issue about shortwave has been bypassed. The closing down of shortwave does not seem to me to achieve any of the goals that the BBC World Service wants to fulfil or, in fact, any of the goals that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hopes to achieve by funding it.

  Q4 Chair: Given the importance that the unions obviously put on the World Service, would you be prepared to accept any cuts at all?

  Jeremy Dear: We have a history since the Second World War of negotiating with the BBC over cuts that are imposed. We are not going to go round advocating cuts, but sometimes there are cuts in budgets that we have to respond to. Whether that means changes in technology or changes in the natures of services, we have had to do it. Of course, we will do that if that is the implication, but we think that these cuts should not happen.

  Q5 Chair: Do you have a view on what the size of the budget should be for the World Service?

  Jeremy Dear: If you look at the size of the cuts—about £46 million—I understand that about 1.5% of the increase in the DFID budget would cover the whole of that £46 million. Were that money for overseas development assistance to be transferred to the World Service for overseas development assistance goals, you wouldn't need to make any of these cuts.

  Q6 Chair: So you are saying that the budget you would agree to is the budget pre-cuts?

  Luke Crawley: Jeremy is absolutely right. Both unions at the BBC have been in the unfortunate position in the main BBC of having to deal with job losses, but that is also true of the World Service. I was the official for the World Service in the early 1990s, when there was a similar attempt—in my view, misguided—by the Foreign Office to reduce the budget. We ran a very vigorous campaign and had some success in turning it over. I have to say that we had an extraordinary level of cross-party support then, as I hope we would have now. People feel very strongly about the World Service in Parliament, and rightly so. It's something of a jewel in the crown of Britain, both here and abroad, and it is seen as a very important force. For that reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office needs to look again at whether it should cut or not. In our view, it should not.

  Jeremy Dear: It is an argument based not just on, "Give us this amount of money," but the cost-effectiveness of this money. If you look at the use of what people term soft power in the delivery of British values in different parts of the world, the World Service is an amazingly cost-effective way of doing that. The level of these savings seems disproportionate to the impact they will have, such as the 30 million fewer listeners—that will be even more when you take all the shortwave transmission endings into account.

  Q7 Sir Menzies Campbell: I understand the reluctance to becoming cutters, but may I turn the question round slightly? If you were to wake up tomorrow and discover that the 16% cut had gone back to 10%, and that there was a 6% unexpected bonus, what would be the elements that may be subject to cuts that you would want to keep?

  Luke Crawley: Again, you are putting us in an invidious position, because, clearly, we do not want any of our members, whether they are involved in the delivery of the broadcast or working on the journalism side, to be dismissed. That seems to be what is facing us. If 6% was restored, we would welcome that. We would be prepared to talk to the BBC World Service management about what should be done with that and what should happen. Jeremy has made the point that we have negotiated in the past, usually successfully—i.e. without dispute—our way through problems of this order of magnitude, and I think that we could do so again.

  Q8 Sir Menzies Campbell: I do not want to put you in an invidious position. I am trying to find out whether there is an order of ranking of priorities in your mind.

  Jeremy Dear: There is for a lot of campaigners. You will have seen high profile campaigns around some services, but there is not for us. We believe that a lot of these services all contribute to BBC World Service journalism. The BBC World Service English language newsroom and other parts of the BBC rely on the expertise of people in the Caribbean, in Latin America, in Africa, in India and so on, in order to produce other programmes as well. It is hard to say that there is a priority, because all of it contributes to BBC journalism.

  Sir Menzies Campbell: I will not press the point.

  Q9 Mr Ainsworth: Maybe there is another way of handling this that might help you. Nobody is surprised by the position that you take; it would be very surprising if you took another. Given the difficulties that you understandably have, can you be specific on the adverse consequences of the cuts programme as you see it?

  Jeremy Dear: For people in five language service areas, they will have no BBC transmissions in their own language. For many people around the world, they will no longer be able to receive BBC radio via shortwave. That means that they rely either on rebroadcasts or relays on FM or internet services. In many of the debates that there have been, there has been a lot of talk on how listening online has gone up by 125% in such and such a country, while listening on the radio has gone down 30%. Most people still receive the BBC World Service through shortwave transmissions across the globe. That is a fact. The balance is clearly changing, but not to the extent that shortwave should be ended.

  The ending of shortwave will have a massive impact in many places, particularly in places with the poorest people, and where there is no access to electricity in order to access internet services. There is a danger—it was made clear in one of the pieces that Mark Tully wrote about the Hindi service—that you only talk to the elite and that you do not talk to the people. That will be the overriding effect of the ending of these services. In our written submission we have included a detailed breakdown of each service and what we think the implications of the cuts will be in different places. I am happy to send that on again, so that you are able to see that, to back that information up.

  Luke Crawley: Just to pick up on the shortwave issue, anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to the World Service abroad on shortwave will know that it is an interesting auditory experience, shortwave being what it is. You may not be aware that there is a thing called Digital Radio Mondiale, which translates as digital radio on shortwave, which is being developed. It is an opportunity that the BBC could and should take, to ensure that listeners on shortwave can listen in quality. That would do an enormous lot of good. There are obvious advantages; not least that it would be a delivery system free from political interference, the add-on licensing costs of rebroadcasting FM and so forth.

  Jeremy has made the point that, in some areas, shortwave audiences have actually increased, not just decreased and that 53% of the radio audience is on shortwave. The majority of people listen on shortwave. For example, the Indian Government took the view that, politically and financially, they want to support Digital Radio Mondiale and told all Indian radio to get on with sorting it out and making sure that they could broadcast in that way. That is a very important thing that the BBC could and should pick up. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office should pay attention to that fact because, as Jeremy said, it reaches an audience—not just the elite, but the mass of people and it is all the more important for that.

  Jeremy Dear: That is just one example. For non-English services, the BBC's mobile and internet audiences are just 6% of the audience for radio. Although the balance is changing, it has not changed that significantly.

  Q10 Mr Ainsworth: I want to chase those two issues a little further without putting you in an impossible position. You appear to be particularly exercised about the language services. Is that right or are you just opposed to cuts in principle? Is that an area that you are particularly worried about?

  Jeremy Dear: Of course, we are particularly worried about the BBC withdrawing entirely from certain languages. That is clearly a concern. There are also concerns about the impact of the cuts on places such as the World Service English language newsroom where key correspondents and regional experts are among those whose jobs are scheduled to be cut. Particular programmes such as "Europe Today" and "Politics UK" are to be cut. Again, those add to the pool of experience and expertise that the whole of the BBC relies on when it is producing its journalism. It will mean a narrowing of the range of stories provided for English and language services because that is what those 120 or so journalists who work there do.

  Q11 Mr Ainsworth: On the shortwave issue, how would you respond to what is being said by some: this is merely an acceleration of something that was going to happen in any case. It has been said that the BBC was going to get out of shortwave and become more reliant on other methods as all uses change. How do you respond to that?

  Luke Crawley: Ask the BBC obviously, but from our point of view we would say that shortwave is right now reaching the majority of the radio audience. With the development of such methods as DRM, it could be reaching more people. The fact is that if the BBC gets out of shortwave, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You might not know, but internationally a frequency cannot be owned in the way that they are controlled in this country. You own it by the fact that you broadcast on it. If you stop broadcasting on it, guess what? Someone else will take it over as soon as possible, and you cannot get back on to it.

  Even if, let us say, in five years' time Digital Radio Mondiale became the norm for broadcasting shortwave in this country, the BBC would have real problems in trying to build its audience back up again on those frequencies because it had vacated them, and someone else was squatting on them and had developed a different audience. The BBC would have lost it. It is something that the BBC has got that it should not be throwing away. There is a real danger of throwing it away.

  Jeremy Dear: You cannot underestimate the issue about political interference and the blocking of FM stations or blocking of the internet compared with shortwave. Whether it is China, Russia, Iran or parts of the Caribbean or Africa, this happens on a regular basis. Our evidence documented quite a lot of examples of that sort of thing happening. Shortwave is not susceptible in the same way.

  Q12 Mr Watts: Looking to the future, are you confident that the BBC Trust will protect world services in the future? Do you take comfort from the Director-General's commitment that the funding for the World Service will be increased after it takes over responsibility from the FCO?

  Luke Crawley: From our point of view, that is a pudding, the proof of which is in the eating, but the fact is that I am sure the trust will give undertakings and do its best to police that. As I understand it, and because the BBC is taking it over from 2014, it will obviously come under scrutiny along with charter renewal in 2016. That will be within 18 months of it having taken over. It will be possible for the Committee and other parliamentary Committees to have a look at what has happened.

  As for whether we think that funding increase is bound to happen, it is a bit hard to say at the moment. The BBC is wrestling with quite a difficult licence fee settlement at the moment. What will it be able to do when it takes over the World Service? It says that it will take over the World Service and hopes to be in a position to put more money into different parts of it. I hope that that is the case, but I don't know for certain whether it will be or not.

  Jeremy Dear: A number of changes have already happened at the World Service that we have not been supportive of, and that we think have already caused some damage to the ability of the BBC World Service to cover the range and scope of stories in the way that we would hope, but we have been told that the BBC will put more money into the World Service post-2014. We have to take that at face value. There is a concern about the possible implications of merging all the BBC's news operations into one large news operation. Of course, more co-operation can be achieved between all parts of the BBC, but the World Service has a very distinctive voice and a very different style of journalism to some extent, which we would not want to be lost. There needs to be some way in which there is a ring-fenced budget for the BBC World Service within an overall BBC budget.

  One of the dangers in all this is that we are going to see some services close. We will see a lot of skilled, expert journalists and technical staff lost to the BBC. The BBC might say, "Well, two or three years down the line, we are actually going to be putting more money in and we may well be looking to re-recruit some of these very same skilled staff." We think that there is an argument to be made about bridging that period. If the BBC's commitment to put more money in is genuine, there can be a discussion about how we make sure we don't pay out a load of money in redundancy pay in 2012, and then in 2014 hire the very same people to do pretty much the same job.

  Q13 Mr Watts: On the ring-fencing, is that something that you have discussed with the BBC?

  Jeremy Dear: Not at this stage, no.

  Q14 Mr Watts: Is that something that you would seek to do in future?

  Jeremy Dear: Certainly we would be seeking to protect the amount of money that goes into the World Service. I don't know what the mechanism for doing that is, but ring-fencing its budgets would be one way to do that. But we would also hope that there is sufficient parliamentary scrutiny at the time of the BBC licence fee settlements and charter renewals and so on to make sure that it is sticking to the commitments that it has given to fund the World Service properly once it has taken it over.

  Q15 Mr Baron: Can I press you on the issue of whether the BBC Trust is going to be adequately protective of the World Service? We live in a world of the cult of the celebrity. We all know there is a danger that funds and resources could be switched to—how can I put it?—"more popular" programmes. The current governance arrangements are still in force, and Peter Horrocks, who is sitting behind you, said that the right measures would be put in place in future. We briefly discussed ring-fencing. What other options are there? What sort of mechanism would you like to see put in place to ensure that the World Service is adequately protected?

  Luke Crawley: You talked about ring-fencing, and Jeremy has talked about the kind of scrutiny that would be undertaken. If you put such and such a mechanism in place, it is difficult to say that that guarantees something will happen. At the moment, clear undertakings have been given by the Director-General about what will be spent and the increases that could happen after 2014. If we in the trade unions feel that we've been given an undertaking by the employer to do something, and we get to the point where that thing is going to be done and it inevitably involves spending money, but the employer suddenly says, "We can't possibly spend that money now, for these reasons", we would take a view on that, and, depending on what it is, you might end up in a discussion, a negotiation or even a dispute. The World Service is no different in that regard.

  Between now and 2014, we are likely to be having many heated and vigorous discussions with the BBC about restructurings and redundancies. Assuming we get to some point around the middle of 2013 and those have been dealt with, we would expect the BBC in 2014 to be able to deliver on its promises about the protection of the World Service. If the BBC said, "Guess what—we are now going to have to dismiss large numbers because we can't do what we said", I am sure that Parliament and Committees such as this would take a view, and we would certainly be taking a view on behalf of our members. It is not clear to me that there is another mechanism that we could use to enable us to do any more than that. We exist to try to protect our members' jobs as well as to try to preserve the value of something like the World Service. I think we will be very vigorous in trying to do that. If we weren't, our members would be telling us about it in short order.

  Jeremy Dear: Mechanisms are difficult to achieve; scrutiny of what is being spent is easier. The point you make reflects our real fear about the idea that you suddenly create one big news pool and there is then internal competition for resources. We know that covering a story in the Great Lakes area of Africa is much more expensive than covering a film-opening in Leicester Square, for example. Yet when budgets are under pressure, there will clearly be pressure on editors to meet budgets and therefore cover stories that rely more on celebrity or political PR than expensive news-gathering. Ring-fencing of budgets is one way to guard against that, but it seems that it is almost down to you, in terms of parliamentary scrutiny, to do something too.   

  Q16 Mr Baron: Absolutely, and we accept that responsibility, no doubt. But coming back to the point made earlier, that approach—realistic though it may be—assumes that there is a clear picture, quite early on, of the ambition, scope, responsibilities and coverage of the BBC World Service in the future. How else can you judge whether promises have been abided by?

  Jeremy Dear: But isn't one of those promises the percentage of the BBC's budget that is spent on the World Service? Although the BBC's budget may change from year to year as a percentage of its spending, the World Service should have no less than is spent on it at this time. Indeed, the BBC is saying they would spend more on it. Were the BBC to be successful in increasing its commercial income, for example, more money would go into the BBC World Service as well.

  Q17 Sir John Stanley: Leaving the present cuts situation to one side for a moment, can you both tell us, as far as your respective union memberships is concerned, whether, in the long term, you feel that your members would be better off if the World Service remained as a grant-in-aid body under the wing of the Foreign Office, or within the BBC? Depending on your answer, will you explain why you feel they would be better off in your favoured place?

  Luke Crawley: That is not an easy question to answer, because at the moment it is not easy to tell what is going to happen when the World Service becomes part of the BBC. Obviously, you could argue that if it is inside the BBC and gets a set proportion of the BBC licence fee settlement—whatever that is—that gives it some measure of protection. Equally, you could say that if it remained part of the FCO, you would expect a Government to recognise its value and try and preserve the level of funding.

  However, whichever way you go, things can happen. For example, the licence fee settlement could be reduced—it has been frozen for the next few years, but it could be reduced. Similarly, we could be facing, as we are now, general cuts by the Government across the board, which would have an impact on the FCO. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure that I can give you a definitive answer one way or another, because it is not clear to me that one is necessarily better than the other.

  Jeremy Dear: Again, I don't think there is a definitive answer. At the outset, I set out the two principles about properly resourced journalism and safe and secure transmission mechanisms for such journalism. We would want to see whoever is funding the BBC meeting those criteria. There are drawbacks with it being Foreign Office-funded; equally, there could be drawbacks with it being BBC-funded, because of the kind of points that John Baron was making about competition for budgets. I don't think that there is a definitive answer. In 10 years' time we may be coming back and saying there is, but I don't think we know now.

  Q18 Sir Menzies Campbell: But isn't the absence of a definitive answer absolutely the crux of this part of the debate? You have a flat licence fee for six years. You do not have grant in aid, over which we, sitting round this table, have a much more direct influence, than influence with an independent trust, whose independence is guaranteed.

  It is not just a question of one element of news competing with another, because it could easily be one division—light entertainment competing against news and documentaries, or news and documentaries competing against the World Service. That uncertainty fills people like myself with considerable apprehension about where we will be in 10 years. Even accepting the sincerity of the undertakings that have been given by the Foreign Office on behalf of the BBC and the Trust, it is that element of uncertainty that cannot be eliminated, as your answer to the question makes clear.

  Jeremy Dear: You are right to some extent, but let's not forget that the next three years' funding are nothing to do with the BBC, it is Foreign Office funding and we are facing a 20% cut—£46 million less. Therefore, those who perhaps had some faith in the grant in aid and the FCO grant have probably lost some of it as a result of these cuts and now there will be more people who say, maybe the BBC will make a better fist of it.

  Sir Menzies Campbell: At the moment I can ask questions directly of the Ministers responsible for that part of the Foreign Office which is responsible, in turn, for the World Service. I can approach them formally or informally. That is a much more immediate opportunity to exercise influence than it would be approaching the chairman of the BBC Trust.

  Q19 Mr Roy: May I move on to pensions? On 26 January the Foreign Secretary said on the Floor of the House: "While any closures might be regretted, they would not be necessary at all were it not for the inherited BBC pension deficit". What did you think?

  Jeremy Dear: I actually only read it this morning and I think it is an outrageous statement and completely untrue. Let me put it this way, it seems to suggest that there is a pensions deficit caused by people having overgenerous pensions. There is potentially a pensions deficit, although we have not had the valuation yet; it has not been finalised and there have already been changes announced to BBC pensions which will reduce the value of people's pensions. If there is a deficit in the scheme, some of us might argue that it is as a result of the BBC having had a partial pensions holiday over a 13-year period to the tune of around £1 billion. It seems to suggest, in the way it is phrased, that it is to do with workers having too generous pensions. I simply do not accept that. The BBC knew exactly what their pension commitments were, their pension commitments will be less going forward as a result of agreements that have been made; that could have been expected and therefore, I simply do not accept that argument as a reason for the cuts. The reason for the cuts is because there is £46 million less being given to the BBC.

  Luke Crawley: Just to make a point on pensions; as we understand the figures, the contribution from the World Service to deal with the deficit is included in the proposals relating to the World Service, but the figures exclude BBC Monitoring, which we haven't really talked about. That is going to have a consequence; it could well lead to further job losses. Estimates have been made of how much will be required to deal with the deficit, but, as Jeremy said, there is no announcement yet of what the deficit actually is. There have been quite serious changes made to the scheme to reduce its costs, but the actual payments that have been budgeted for, as we understand them, could actually exceed the estimate of what's required and that would lead to further job losses, so there are still difficulties to be got through in terms of the impact of the pension scheme deficit.

  Q20 Mr Roy: What would therefore be lost to the World Service in relation to separate provision if it has to contribute to the BBC's wider pension deficit?

  Luke Crawley: The World Service has already budgeted for that as part of its proposal, but BBC Monitoring, based at Caversham in Reading, as we understand it, have not yet budgeted for that and we think that there is a problem coming when that comes over the horizon. We think that they should have done. There are lots of issues about where the money comes from, but it not as though any of this has been a secret; we have been in and around the issue of pensions in the BBC for the last eight or 10 years and in the last three or four years, it has been pretty intense, so the management there should have known what was coming down the line.

  Q21 Mr Roy: Do you think that it's right that your members should be willing to accept a lower pension settlement to help with the BBC pension deficit if it means maintaining a better World Service?

  Luke Crawley: I am not sure that is quite how we put it to our members when we balloted them; I don't think we put it to them that there was an issue about the cost of the BBC pension scheme and what was required to clear the deficit. It is no secret that it was an extremely contentious issue because a lot of people felt that the BBC were going back on promises that had been made in relation to past service, but, by and large, union members at the BBC were prepared to say, "Okay, we don't like this, this is definitely not what we thought was going to happen, but we are prepared to sign up to it in order to make the BBC pension scheme affordable going forward." I don't think they saw it in the context of being able to deal with possible deficits arising either in the World Service or in Monitoring; that is a completely different issue, which BBC management have to address, rather than the staff.

  Jeremy Dear: It is also worth making it clear that we still await the valuation of the pension scheme. No final conclusion has been made until such time as that valuation report is in.

  Chair: We are waiting for that too.

  Q22 Mr Watts: Just to get that on the record, I think what you are saying is that the Foreign Secretary's statement was inaccurate, because he couldn't have known what the deficit was when he linked it to the savings that needed to be made in the BBC. He would have no way of knowing.

  Luke Crawley: As far as I understand it, as I sit here now, it is not in the public domain, so if he knew about it, he would have had it from some method that is not in the public domain. Perhaps the Director-General can answer directly the question of whether he knew, but I don't believe that he could have done. I agree Jeremy, it seems not possible. But who knows?

  Q23 Mike Gapes: Can I take you to the job losses? I have a specific question, first to BECTU. In your written submission, you expressed specific concern about impacts on those foreign language staff whose UK residence depends on their employment by the World Service. The Foreign Secretary, on the Floor of the House, said something about that on 26 January: "Ministers will want to make sure that they do not" was his exact phrase. What does that mean? Are you reassured by what he said?

  Luke Crawley: You would probably need to address the first part of your question to the Foreign Secretary; I am not able to see into his mind and determine exactly what he means. On the second part—whether we are reassured—well, we are a little bit reassured, but actually we require a great deal more reassurance.

  As I understand it, there are around about 277 people affected; that is to say, people whose residence we think depends on their World Service job. Depending on their status—not everyone has the same visa status—some would face repatriation. We believe that around half of the 277 could fall into that category. We would certainly welcome a definitive statement from the Foreign Secretary that this will not result in repatriation. His words were some comfort, as I said, but we would prefer something absolutely categorical.

  Q24 Mike Gapes: Do you have a detailed breakdown by country of those individuals?

  Luke Crawley: Not at the moment.

  Q25 Mike Gapes: Do you think that there is such a list somewhere in the World Service?

  Luke Crawley: We have to think so. There must be, yes.

  Jeremy Dear: Yes.

  Q26 Mike Gapes: Obviously, if you were being sent back to a democratic country it is rather different from being sent to somewhere where your status might be rather vulnerable.

  Jeremy Dear: That is the key point. You have here journalists broadcasting news about foreign Governments, some dictatorial and tyrannical, in different parts of the world. You then have the possibility that they lose their job and their visa, as a result being sent back. I have seen the statement and it talks about procedures for dealing with such issues, which there are, because my union represents lots of people in deportation cases. We currently have one, for example, involving a Cameroonian journalist, who was very critical of the regime in Cameroon, was in prison there and beaten up, escaped, came to Britain, is now a failed asylum seeker and so is to be returned to a country that is called the biggest jailer of journalists in Africa. That has all been done through proper procedures, so our fear is that we will get some situations—it might be China, Russia or some of the countries in Africa and so on—where you have a very real danger of people being sent back to countries that can appear vaguely democratic on the surface, but actually for journalists are very dangerous.

  Q27 Mike Gapes: You are not satisfied by the statement made by the Foreign Secretary.

  Jeremy Dear: No.

  Luke Crawley: No.

  Q28 Mike Gapes: Can I take you to the wider question? What consultations have taken place between the unions and the BBC World Service management about the job losses?

  Luke Crawley: I think I can say that they have been fairly detailed, extensive and—I have to say—over a relatively short period of time, for lots of good reasons. I think the BBC has made serious efforts to ensure that consultation is proper and adequate. At the moment, I don't think we would have any complaint about what is happening. We are less happy about the outcome, but the BBC is consulting properly.

  Q29 Mike Gapes: Are you in a position to know at this stage the grades of jobs to be lost, and how many? How many of those will be at management level, of the, I think, total 480 announced job losses?

  Jeremy Dear: I understand from the figures we have got that none is at senior management level.

  Luke Crawley: Yet. We are not sure what senior management level means. As far as we have figures, I believe that in this round of cuts, nothing proposed is at senior management level.

  Jeremy Dear: We have them broken down almost into types of jobs, such as editorial and technical, rather than all the grades at this stage, because we are still in a consultation process.

  Q30 Mike Gapes: Do you know the specific posts and individuals? Or is this more general?

  Luke Crawley: It is a mixed picture because in some cases, there is only one person in the post—a singleton post—and that is obviously going to be closed. In other cases, they are reducing the number of hours rather than closing the whole service. So let's say that there are 20 producers, for argument's sake, and they are going to lose 10 or five. There has to be a selection process. It is less easy to be certain about exactly who is going to be affected at this stage.

  Jeremy Dear: And where it is a whole-language service, it is clearly different from reducing the number of jobs in a larger news room.

  Q31 Mike Gapes: You can't easily transfer someone from one language service to another language service because of the particular skills.

  Jeremy Dear: Generally, there are strong redeployment policies across the BBC, but it becomes more difficult when it is a language service.

  Q32 Andrew Rosindell: The NUJ suggested that one solution to the cuts to the BBC World Service would be for DFID to step in and use some of their seemingly vast resources to ensure that cuts do not take place. That has been supported by my colleague, Andrew Tyrie. Could you tell us how, if that were to happen, it would affect the accountability and independence of the BBC World Service? Would DFID have too much influence, if they were funding it?

  Jeremy Dear: It is certainly not asking DFID to fund the whole of the World Service.

  Andrew Rosindell: Just to plug the gap.

  Jeremy Dear: Yes. The point we are making is that with their budget increasing by an average of £3.5 billion a year, less than 1.5% of that average annual increase, which would be about £50 million, the equivalent of what is being cut from the World Service, could be used. Clearly, it could only be used where the World Service is carrying out work that is compatible with overseas development assistance goals. Quite clearly, a lot of it is already being done, in bolstering fragile states, enhancing democracy and media freedom. I don't believe it would give DFID any more of a say over what the BBC World Service did than it would give the Foreign Office through the grant-in-aid. There are mechanisms that can be put in place to ensure that they don't have any more say over it. We are talking about the period of three years until the BBC takes over funding of the World Service.

  Q33 Andrew Rosindell: Have you discussed the proposal with DFID? Have you put it to them? What reaction did you get?

  Jeremy Dear: We haven't. I understand that the BBC has, and I understand that a number of MPs have also had discussions. I also understand that the Secretary of State said that he would look at it and have discussions with his colleagues in DFID about the possibilities. I am not aware that any definitive conclusions have been reached, but it is certainly something that you as MPs are in a better position to press than we are.

  Chair: May I thank you both very much? You have been very frank and open with your views, and it is much appreciated.

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