Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
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 levelsonly a 10% cutthat 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
ServiceI believe it is about 0.5% of Government spending
on international effortit 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 serviceI'm sure you know
all thisbut 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
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
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 cutsabout £46 millionI 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 attemptin
my view, misguidedby 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 listenersthat 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 successfullyi.e. without disputeour
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
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
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 dangerit was made
clear in one of the pieces that Mark Tully wrote about the Hindi
servicethat 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 audiencenot 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,
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
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 tohow 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 whatwe
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
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 approachrealistic though it may
beassumes 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 settlementwhatever
that isthat 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
However, whichever way you go, things can happen.
For example, the licence fee settlement could be reducedit
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 divisionlight
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
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 partwhether we are reassuredwell,
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 statusnot
everyone has the same visa statussome 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
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 situationsit might be China, Russia or some
of the countries in Africa and so onwhere 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
Luke Crawley: I think I can say
that they have been fairly detailed, extensive andI have
to sayover 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
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 posta
singleton postand 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