Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Peter Horrocks, Jim Egan and Richard Thomas
9 March 2011
Q34 Chair: We now turn to the
management of the BBC World Service. I give a warm welcome to
Peter Horrocks, who is the Director, to Richard Thomas, who is
the Chief Operating Officer at BBC Global News, and to Jim Egan,
who is the Controller of Strategy and Distribution at BBC Global
Peter, you have been here once before and spoken
to us. Is there anything you would like to say just to bring us
up to date, before we get into the questioning?
Peter Horrocks: Thank you very
much, Chairman. Briefly, by way of introduction, I was here in
November and at that stage it was only possible to speculate about
the nature of the changes that the World Service would need to
announce. Clearly, we have announced our specific changes since
More importantly, I want to draw the Committee's
attention to developments in the worldafter all the World
Service is about responding to the worldand in particular
what has been happening in the Middle East and North Africa. I
am sure that members of the Committee will have seen the intrepid
reporting by people such as John Simpson and Jeremy Bowen, but
I want to briefly mention the work of the BBC Arabic service.
In recent weeks, we have seen the crowds gathering
in Tahrir Square. They set up a makeshift projection system to
be able to watch the BBC Arabic television service. Again, in
the protests in Bahrain a similar thing was set up. Recently,
on the border between Libya and Tunisia, again people were watching
BBC Arabic. That's because of the trust that BBC Arabic has with
the audience in the Arabic world, through the history of Arabic
radio and the developments that there have been in television
and in online recently that have built that trust. It is that
relationship which is so precious to us.
You can see through the Arabic service, through
both the traditional delivery through radiowe are retaining
and sustaining the shortwave for radioas well as the investment
in television and online, whose figures have doubled in recent
weeks, the importance of and the need for what the World Service
does. The struggle that we have had in recent months is to strike
the right balance between the traditional delivery and what was
being discussed with the previous paneldelivery through
radio, which remains vitally importantand our ability to
invest in the future. That is what we have been working through
with the Foreign Office.
I have no doubt that the Foreign Secretary personally
is hugely supportive of the World Service. He has said that repeatedly.
Our dilemma has been that with the resources that are available
in the current economic and financial circumstances, we are suffering
damage to our existing services and, of equal importance to me,
we are not able sufficiently to invest in new services for the
future that can maintain the strength, quality and reputation
that are important to our audiences, but also reflect so well
We very much welcome the Committee's investigation
of this issue, to assess whether the level of resource is correct,
whether all the right sources of funding have been explored and
whether the right choices have been made in these very difficult
Q35 Chair: Thank you very much
indeed. That is very helpful. You were originally asked to look
at a 25% cut, and you eventually ended up at 16%. When was that
decision made? When was agreement reached, as it were? And do
you think it is fair, in the light of the fact that the Foreign
Office is having a 9% cut in real terms?
Peter Horrocks: We were asked
to do a scenario of 25%. It wasn't a question of 16% being agreed;
it was clearly a decision that was ultimately made by Ministers,
and we were informed about it some weeks before the announcement
of the comprehensive spending review on 20 October.
When I originally spoke to the Committee, we
were in the position of having the information that was provided
by the Chancellor to the House, which described an overall Foreign
Office settlement of a reduction of approximately of 24%. Certainly
at that point, the comparison was between the World Service's
16% and that broader figure. However, through the investigations
of the Committee and your report, it has become clearer. The figure
that I recall from the evidence is that there is a 6% real terms
reduction for the FCO budget, so the strict comparison is between
6% and 16% for the World Service. Clearly the difference in that
number speaks for itself. The Foreign Office has explained the
rationale for that, but there clearly is a discrepancy, and the
reference to the FCO family is the fact that different members
of the family have clearly been treated in different ways.
Q36 Chair: Did the Foreign Secretary
personally intervene in the discussions leading up to the final
Peter Horrocks: I do not know.
There was a meeting that the Director-General, the Chairman and
I had with the Foreign Secretary immediately before the announcement
of the settlement, but otherwise my dealings were primarily with
officials and the Permanent Secretary.
Q37 Andrew Rosindell: The service
closures to the BBC World Service that are being proposed are
quite devastating, particularly in areas of the world such as
the Caribbean, where we still have a huge amount of interest in
countries and territories that still look to Britain. How did
you reach the conclusion that the Caribbean and other parts of
the world should be targeted for the cuts?
Peter Horrocks: I should say that
none of the services that the BBC proposed for closure were any
that we regarded as involving a simple or light decision. They
were all significant losses for each of the audiences in those
areas. However, given the extreme financial pressure we were under,
we needed to make choices. The consequence of retaining all of
our services would have been a degradation and thinning out of
the quality of our whole operation, which we judged would in the
end lower the BBC's reputation and be a reflection on Britain.
We therefore had to look primarily at the need as well as the
cost-effectiveness in each part of the world we serve. As an illustration,
you are absolutely right that there is a strong connection between
the UK and the Caribbean. However, economically the Caribbean
is developing reasonably well and there are free media generally.
And interestingly, since the BBC announced the closure of the
Caribbean regional service, we are still serving our global English
to Caribbean audiences.
A number of islands, broadcasters and media
organisations have got together and said that maybe the Caribbean
should itself be providing a regional service, rather than its
needing to come from Britain. That is a signal that those economies
and societies are in a position to provide such a service. But
more generally, it was a question of the need for the World Service
in the context of the tight financial framework that we were working
Q38 Andrew Rosindell: Which area
of the service that is being cut do you regret cutting most? Is
there any particular area that you feel should, on reflection,
perhaps be reviewed, or is what you are going to do set in stone?
Peter Horrocks: It is not entirely
set in stone. In terms of our distribution to the Arabic region,
we have adapted our radio changes and are sustaining our shortwave
and mediumwave more than we originally intended. The Committee
might be aware that the other area where we have made an adjustment
is in our Hindi service. We have not been able to reprieve the
shortwave service entirely, but we have had a number of approaches
from commercial partners in India, and in order to give ourselves
the time to explore thatit is by no means certainwe
have said that we would sustain an hour per day of our Hindi shortwave
service for a year to be able to establish those alternatives.
Those are two examples where we have been flexible and responsive.
However, I should make it clear that those have been absolutely
about squeezing budgets that might otherwise have been used for
other things, and there is not significant further room for flexibility
within the resources we have available.
Q39 Andrew Rosindell: How about
Tamil language in Sri Lanka, bearing in mind the fact that they
have just gone through a horrible war? Are the potential cuts
there being reviewed?
Peter Horrocks: We are sustaining
the Tamil and Sinhala services in Sri Lanka, and there are small
changes there, as there are for all of our services. All of our
services are having change of one kind or another. However, I
do not believe that the overall effectiveness of the two services
to Sri Lanka will be seriously compromised. Of course, we keep
all our services under review. As I made clear in my introductory
statement, responding to events is the name of the game for the
World Service. It is not about having a completely fixed pattern;
if political circumstances change, we respond to them.
Q40 Andrew Rosindell: I know you
have to look at cuts, but overall do you not believe that reducing
essential services to parts of the world will reduce the very
good and reliable reputation of the BBC World Service to parts
of the world which we have traditionally shown enormous interest
in and valued? Do you not think that will undermine our reputation,
not only as a country but your service?
Peter Horrocks: It clearly will,
and there will be damage. I do not believe that this is about
the death of the World Service. Some of our critics, and some
people expressing concern as supporters, have used that language,
but I do not think that is what this is about. However, the World
Service will be damaged. We are less able to carry out our mission
for our audiences and for Britain than we were previously. It
is my job to make the best of the funding available and to continue
the argumentI hope we will come on to thisabout
whether there may be potential ways of mitigating, or being able
to invest further for the future. I absolutely do not want us
and the team within the World Service to talk ourselves into thinking
that the World Service will no longer be strong. It will be strong.
It will still have a strong reputation and it will still be the
most significant, most reputable international news organisation
in the world. It will just be less effective than it has been,
and it is being damaged.
Q41 Rory Stewart: To what extent
did you really get the kind of support you should have got from
the management, the Trust and the Foreign Office? It seems to
me that you were in a pretty bounced and exposed position. You've
just told us that you didn't quite know until quite late in the
day what the scale of the cuts was and how you compared. Were
you getting the support that you needed?
Peter Horrocks: I think I need
to divide that up into the two different aspects of your question
in terms of governance and the various aspects of the BBC. We
made our case to the Foreign Office as strongly as we possibly
could. Clearly, under the financial circumstances in which the
whole of Government are operating, there were some difficult decisions
to be taken. I think that the Foreign Office is in a business
that's different from the BBC. It's different from broadcasting.
That understanding of the nature of the choices that we needed
to make is not something that the Foreign Office is that well
set up to be able to deal with. Referring to the questions that
were asked of a previous witnesswe may come on to thisI
think that being funded by and strategically directed by the BBC
is the right thing to do, because it is about broadcasting activity
rather than about the representation of the UK.
In terms of practical support from within the
BBCI have explained to the Committee previously that the
idea of licence fee funding was something that I personally supported,
and I believe that we can have an integrated approach to our news
operations while still delivering for our international audiencesI
will draw the Committee's attention to the funding that the BBC
has provided for the costs of restructuring. One of the things
that we faced in the various scenarios that we looked at was the
possibility of cutting 20 or more services, and that was in the
face of the non-availability of funding for restructuring from
HMG. The BBC, although it is not required to under the terms of
the recent licence fee settlement, has provided £20 million
to pay for the restructuring costs. The Foreign Office has offered,
but has not yet approved or agreed, £3 million of restructuring
support, which the Foreign Secretary referred to in his statement
on 26 January. That has not yet been agreed.
In terms of practical ways of helping the World
Service through this period, the BBC has certainly come to our
assistance, and we have heard reference to the statement that
the Director-General has made about his intention to improve the
funding from 2014 onwards.
Q42 Rory Stewart: Is there any
lesson for the Foreign Office? Is there anything that the Foreign
Office could do better if it was in this situation again?
Peter Horrocks: It probably isn't
going to be in quite the same situation again, but clearly there
is three years' further funding, and perhaps we will come on to
that if I have questions about the potential for development funding.
It's an example of thinking about Britain's assets across Government
as a whole. I absolutely understand why the Foreign Office wanted
to support the budgets for its embassies. There has been erosion
there, and there was clearly a strong need to support the activities
of the Foreign Office. On the thinking between the Foreign Office
and DFID, and the ability to consider UK assets across the piece,
which is something that the Government have said that they want
to do, it would be helpful if that was easier to be able to achieve,
and perhaps we can address that if we talk about the issue of
Q43 Mike Gapes: Can I take you
back to your remarks about the Hindi service? As I understand
it, the announcement on 7 March was simply for a one-hour evening
broadcast for a year while you explore other options. Is that
Peter Horrocks: That is correct,
Q44 Mike Gapes: Given that you
had 10.9 million listeners to the shortwave service in Hindi and
the broadcasts via the internet audio service, why was a decision
taken to close the Hindi shortwave service?
Peter Horrocks: It was largely
taken because of the very rapid falls that have been happening
in shortwave listening in Indiavery steep declines in recent
years. However, it was made earlier. It was a change that was
required because of the financial circumstances, but was ahead
of what we would ideally have wanted to do. We would like to be
able to be broadcasting on FM in India. We are not allowed to
because of regulatory conditions. We would like to be in a position
to be able to provide low-cost television programming, and we
wanted to get those new things in place before cutting. However,
financial circumstances have meant that we need to make significant
savings, which was the primary reason for losing the Hindi service.
Q45 Mike Gapes: On the figures
you have given us, you are basically saving £680,000 and
losing an audience of nearly 11 million. There seems to be an
incredible loss of audience. You have 180 million globally?
Peter Horrocks: Yes.
Q46 Mike Gapes: And you are losing
11 million of them. It seems unbelievable that this decision
was taken. Now, clearly, there is a public outcry and you have
moved a little way back. I just do not understand. You cannot
broadcast through FM because of the restrictions to which you
referred. Russia and China are apparently increasing their broadcasts
in Hindi. India is a major Commonwealth country. It is a major
partner. It is a priority for our Government in business and trade
connections. It is a potential member of the Security Council.
This just seems a perverse decision.
Peter Horrocks: The audience has
been falling by more than the 10 million figure organically because
of the change in listening habits. As I said, the decision was
required because of the scale of change and reduction we needed
to make, but it was earlier than was ideal. Jim Egan's team look
at all our distribution issues and they were very involved in
the analysis that led to the decision. You might want to add something,
We have a very active strategy in India, which is in Hindi, the
English language and some other vernacular languages. As Peter
said, the shortwave audience has been dropping significantly;
it dropped by 5 million last year.
Q47 Mike Gapes: Can you give us
some figures? Will you go back four or five years and tell us
what the audience was, and how many you are losing each year?
We then might be able to get the sense of it.
Jim Egan: In 2007, the audience
was 19 million. Last year, it dropped by 5 million from just
under 16 million to just under 11 million. The shortwave audience
has clearly been going down, as people have other choices about
how they access news and information in India. We have had a
very active strategy working with mobile companies, with emerging
internet companies in India and so on, together with a FM radio
strategy whereby we are available in a large number of cities
in India, but we are not able to provide news services. As Peter
has indicated, it was a decision that we were probably going to
make in the next few years, given what has happened to shortwave
audiences, but it was something that was required of us because
of the financial circumstances that we are operating in.
Q48 Mr Watts: I want to be clear.
It seems that there has been a dramatic drop in short band, and
you have plans to move into different areas to compensate. Is
it the case that you are not doing that, and that you are actually
losing a big chunk of your previous listeners. You have lost 10
million, but you have already lost 10 million over the last five
years. So that is 20 million.
Jim Egan: Ten million shortwave
listeners have been lost in India.
Q49 Mr Watts: So that is 20 million
you will no longer cover in any way.
Jim Egan: Well, we are not covering
them by shortwave. There are still mediumwave broadcasts going
into India. There is explosive growth in the availability of
mobile phones, which are used not just for reading texts but for
listening to radio services. In Bangladesh next door, for example,
more than half of our FM radio listening is now via the mobile
phone rather than via the transistor radio. Nokia is now the
world's largest manufacturer of radios and mobile phones.
Peter Horrocks: We are adapting
the response of our audiences, and also crucially from commercial
partners. It is very striking that people have come forward and
said that they are prepared to put money into partnerships. Given
the scale of change, there was always bound to be a need for some
adaptation and we are responding to that. It is partly the response
from audiences in the UK and also that commercial response. It
was inevitable with so many changes that there would be some things
that we would need to adjust. I am happy to acknowledge that.
Q50 Mr Watts: If you look back,
20 million people were receiving news from the BBC who now will
not be receiving news from the BBC.
Peter Horrocks: There has been
a fall in the audience which has happened irrespective of BBC
changes. If we had entirely shut shortwave, we would have lost
another 10 million. We have now said we will sustain an hour
a day to keep that going, in order to explore some alternatives.
Q51 Mr Watts: For one year? Peter
Q52 Mike Gapes: Mr Horrocks, when
you spoke to us in November, you referred to a restructuring plan
that would save £46 million by the end of the period before
you were transferred to the BBC. Can you give us some idea of
the timetable for the implementation of this restructuring plan? Peter
Horrocks: The bulk of the changes have now been announced.
As to the changes to our language services in particular, and
the bulk of the changes to our English network schedule, we will
seek to make further savings once our operations have moved into
the new Broadcasting House headquarters. I think approximately
two thirds, maybe more, of our savings have already been announced.
Richard Thomas: The announcement was made on
26 January. The savings we put on the table then were worth roughly
£30 million, so that is roughly two thirds of the £46
million we need to save over the three years.
Q53 Mike Gapes: So you are front-loading
the changes? Richard Thomas: We are.
Q54 Mike Gapes: You also said
that essential services will remain unaffected. What do you mean
by "essential services"? Peter Horrocks:
Our priority services: the Arabic service and our services to
sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where our largest
audiences are. They are not entirely unchanged, but their ability
to deliver a quality service is being sustained. As I have acknowledged,
it will clearly be eroded in some way, but the overall reputation
of those services will be sustained.
Q55 Mike Gapes: Isn't India, with
more than a billion people, and the Hindi language, a priority
in terms of languages and of sheer numbers? Peter Horrocks:
India is a very mixed country, isn't it? There is the new India,
economically thriving, and we have certainly got a strong offer
to them through our World Service English, through BBC World News
and through our online, in both English and Hindi. We have already
talked about the judgment we made about shortwave and the adaptation
we have made in relation to that.
Q56 Mike Gapes: Can you summarise
where we will be after you have implemented these cuts, both the
£30 million you have already announced and the rest of them?
What services will you be providing in terms of shortwave, FM
or internet? Peter Horrocks: Clearly, the picture
is very detailed
Q57 Mike Gapes: Have you finalised
it yet? Peter Horrocks: For the first two thirds
of those savings. Most of the savings in the final period are
more about how we work in the new headquarters, as opposed to
editorial delivery changes. However, I can't rule out those.
But we can certainly provide for the Committee a clear description
of all our remaining services, the countries that we are serving
and on which platforms we provide those services. If I can summarise
that in more general terms, clearly there are reductions and withdrawals:
the five services we are fully closing, and a number of services
where we are maybe not providing radio or shortwave. However,
the World Service will still be a global service. We still have
the ability to generate journalism from all round the world, and
we have the ability, through a variety of platformsespecially
in English, but also with sustaining 27 languagesto still
be a strong global service. We will be strongly competitive.
We will still have the largest overall reach across the BBC's
global news services of any international news broadcaster, and
we believe that we will still have the strongest reputation.
But it is hard to sustain that in the context of those £46
Q58 Sir John Stanley: Mr Horrocks,
I want to return to the point that I raised with the trade union
representatives in the earlier session. Perhaps you could spell
out a bit more to the Committee why you feel that the World Service
will be better off within the BBC, as opposed to grant-aided by
the Foreign Office. I want to provide a specific illustration
of the important general point that Sir Menzies Campbell made
in the earlier evidence session, which is that, by virtue of the
change, you lose what could prove to be a critically important
degree of parliamentary protection. If you cast your mind back
to the time when the previous Conservative Government imposed
significant cuts on the BBC World Service, it was the action of
this Committee and all-party Back-Bench MPs, who rode to your
rescue, that got a substantial reversal of the then Government's
cuts. In your present situation you will not have that protection.
Is it not a real fear that within the BBC you could be slowly
shrivelled and silently shrunk? Here, we will not be able to ride
to your rescue.
Peter Horrocks: Sir John, if that
protection that was offered previously, which my predecessors
clearly appreciated, was applied again and there was parliamentary
support, which changed what we have been discussing, I have no
doubt that I might revise my view. The situation I am in at the
moment, however, is that under the current mechanism there has
been the significant change that we are discussing. As I explained
to Mr Stewart, in terms of the immediate difficulty that we facethe
cost of restructuringthe BBC has been supportive when it
is not required to be, to the tune of £20 million. The Foreign
Office has not yet agreed the £3 million that it has so far
offered. That is just a measure of the difference in perspective
of our potential funders.
I appreciate the parliamentary support that
we have received, and I hope that in any new dispensation that
would continue to be expressed. Clearly the mechanisms would be
different. It is important for the BBCthis is primarily
the responsibility of the BBC Trustto put in place protections
or guarantees, but, most importantly, it should be able to define
what the World Service should be. What need in the world is it
responding to and how, in delivering that, does it reflect well
on the UK and the UK's long-term national interests, rather than
its short-term foreign policy? The BBC Trust is discussing and
working on how it would do that. I am sure an element of accountability
to Parliament and mechanisms will be an aspect of that.
I return to the point I made previously. The
world that broadcasting is now in is not the straightforward world
that it used to be, with the delivery of radio service through
one mechanism, through shortwave. It is now a highly complex set
of relationships with audiences through online, through social
media, through quite difficult changes. The BBC has been, in the
UK, world beating in transitioning from the old linear world to
the digital world. My colleagues on the BBC executive have enormous
experience of dealing with that and the difficult judgments that
are involved in those transitions. The Foreign Office, for perfectly
understandable reasons, does not contain that expertise and does
not have the understanding of the broadcasting business that the
As long as the understanding of the need for
the World Service is there, and the BBC Trust puts in place the
right mechanisms, and has a way of being able to assess the difficult
judgment between the delivery of services to UK audiences and
the delivery of services to international audiencesI appreciate
that that is difficult to resolveI believe that we will
be in a better position, not least because of the experience of
recent months, when it has been difficult to share with the Foreign
Office the judgments that I have been outlining through the course
of my evidence.
Q59 Mr Baron: Can I return to
the question I asked previously, on the business of protecting
the World Service budget from raiding to fund other BBC activities?
Mr Horrocks, when you were before us previously, you said that
you were looking at the mechanism. Can you update us as to where
we are on that?
Peter Horrocks: This may well
be something for you to ask the Director-General about as well.
Ultimately, I believe that this is primarily a BBC Trust responsibility.
Just to refer to how the BBC Trust manages the balance between
different services, it is already used to dealing with asymmetric
services, for example, much larger, expensive services such as
BBC1 versus local radio services or vernacular UK language services.
It defines a licence for each of those services, and the BBC management
is then only allowed to adjust within a narrow margin once those
service licences have been set. As I understand it, the BBC Trust
is considering an overall service licence for the World Service,
which will describe the nature of the need and the broad nature
of the response that the BBC should make to that need in the world.
That would sit under the BBC's purposes, which
are its ultimate objective. The particular purpose of the World
Service is to bring Britain to the world and the world to Britain.
That may be redefined or adapted, or the supplementary language
in relation to that may be adapted in order to reflect the World
Service's particular mission. The BBC Trust is considering, I
believe, the right mechanisms in terms of a particular trustee
who might take responsibility. Those matters are in discussion
at the moment and are not yet determined, but they are the broad
range of mechanisms that are being considered.
Q60 Mr Baron: There has to be
flexibility in this, if only because of world events, and so on.
But you have said, Mr Horrocks, that that would be subject to
revisionor might be in future. It still lays open the possibility
that the budget could be raided for other BBC programmes and activities.
We have talked before about ring-fencing as a possible option,
and percentages of the overall BBC budget, and so on. I know the
indications are very early, and we will ask this question to the
Director-General, but what would you like to see? How can we best
protect the World Service?
Peter Horrocks: The most important
thing is the statement about what we should be delivering and
how we respond to the worldthe World Service's mission.
There should be a mechanism for that within the BBC Trust, which
might be an individual who has responsibility and is charged with
ensuring that it is carried out. That is the most important thing
Within the licence agreements the protection
will be there. It will not be possible under those mechanisms
for the budget to be raided month by month or year by year. Clearly,
there is a strategy-setting processpossibly at each charter
reviewbut those mechanisms are in place for ensuring expenditure
on specific services. So those are the things that I am most looking
Q61 Mr Ainsworth: You were in
the room when my colleague, Frank Roy, was asking the trade union
representatives about the pensions issue. Are you now in a position
to clarifyyou couldn't beforewhat the effects are
of the pension problem dispute on funding of the World Service?
Peter Horrocks: The provision
that we indicated to the FCO of £13 million remains our current
best estimate. We will have updates on that within the next few
months, but that agreed figure between us and the FCO remains
the position. Richard, do you want to amplify?
Richard Thomas: The negotiations
with the pension fund trustees are ongoing and we are not expecting
a final announcement on that until June or July. But all the indications
are that the £13 million estimate in our budget that we gave
to the Foreign Office is still the right number.
Q62 Mr Ainsworth: Let's clarify
the situation, because you, Mr Horrocks, told us that ongoing
"like-for-like savings" would mean that a 25% reduction
would be needed by 2014-15. The Foreign Secretary told us back
in October that the 16% figure included "additional funding
for the World Service's element of the BBC pensions deficit."
Which of those statements was true?
Peter Horrocks: It is included
within the settlementRichard, perhaps you want to explain.
Richard Thomas: The 16% figure
is the difference between the income that we are getting at the
beginning of the period and at the end. Within that 16% we have
to find the money for the pension increase. The other way of looking
at it would be, we have a 25% cut and we have put money back in
for the pensions and for new investments of about £10 million.
Q63 Mr Ainsworth: The cut between
now and 2014-15 will be 25%.
Richard Thomas: Yes.
Q64 Mr Ainsworth: And how much
money was included in the agreement that you reached with the
Peter Horrocks: £13
million for pensions provision and there was an allowance for
£10 million of new investments. However, and we may wish
to turn to this, we feel we should not invest up to that level
at this stage because otherwise we will be cutting even more deeply.
In relation to the pensions, the £13 million does not improve
our position in relation to 16%.
Q65 Mr Ainsworth: The effective
reduction between now and 2014/15 is 25%.
Peter Horrocks: Yes, to our existing
services there is a reduction of 25%.
Q66 Mr Ainsworth:
Is it true that you took a partial pensions holiday of £1
billion over 13 years?
Peter Horrocks: That was not a
World Service decision; that was a matter for the BBC as a whole.
So I was not involved with that but it may be something you wish
to ask the director general.
Q67 Mr Ainsworth:
Is there any requirement on the World Service to cross-subsidise
the wider BBC pensions deficit problem?
Peter Horrocks: No, we are part
of the BBC. All of our staff work interchangeably across the BBC.
We are part of it and we get our fair share of the ups and downs
of that scheme.
Q68 Mr Ainsworth: So are
you protected from those potential wider problems in the BBC?
Peter Horrocks: There is one way
in which we have had further support from the BBC within this
three-year transition period, before we come into full licence-fee
funding, as well as the restructuring money which I have referred
to previously. We are not having to pay the full amount once that
£13 million charge becomes due until later on. There is a
two-year period when our deficit repayments are significantly
reduced by the support of the BBC. So it is another way in which
the BBC, prior to this transfer to the full licence-fee funding,
is supporting us and allowing us to smooth those pension-deficit
repayments over a longer period.
Q69 Mr Roy: You will remember
I asked the Foreign Secretary whether workers here on work permits
would be sent home. Were you assured by the answers that he gave
me in late January in relation to those 277 people?
Peter Horrocks: I was and
I appreciated that you raised that issue with the Foreign Secretary.
We are still in the relatively early stages of the process of
losing the staff who unfortunately will need to leave. We have
done the analysis of the numbers of people who are on various
different visas and permissions to remain and, for reasons that
the unions explained, we do not know yet exactly who will be in
the frame, but so far the assurances from the Foreign Secretary
are very helpful. As we get nearer to identifying individuals,
we will be able to assess whether that is working in terms of
the response from officials within the Border Agency and Home
Office and so on.
Q70 Mr Roy: In relation to who
will be in the frame and who will not be in the frame, what grades
will be in the frame as opposed to what individuals? What are
the grades of those among the 480 who will be losing their jobs?
Peter Horrocks: Of the ones who
might be on a visa?
Mr Roy: Total job losses.
Peter Horrocks: Right across the
Mr Roy: Is that equal? Is that 10, 20
and 430 or is it 150, 150 and 150?
Peter Horrocks: There are smaller
numbers of senior staff than junior staff but the changes across
the World Service over the course of the last year and looking
ahead over this period are spread. Already, senior management
has taken a reduction of 25%. in line with the overall BBC target
for reductions in senior managers. We carried those changes out
in advance of the announcement of the settlement, which is one
of the reasons why the union was right to say there are no senior
management changes as a result of the settlement because we made
those cuts first.
Q71 Mr Roy: So that has already
been done in the past.
Peter Horrocks: It has been done
Q72 Mr Roy: That is not what we
are asking. What I am asking now is in relation to the 480. For
example, how will the BBC management numbers be affected?
Richard Thomas: I had a look at
the split by grades and, if you look at grades 9 and above, which
is where people start getting management responsibility, 15%.
of the post closures were within that category. When you compare
that to the spread in the total population it came out at 15.6%.
So it is roughly in line with the spread between management and
Q73 Mr Roy: So that is an 85/15
spread. Is it the same spread between management and other grades?
Richard Thomas: Yes, one
was 15% and the other was 15.6%, so it was pretty much in line.
Q74 Mr Roy:
Therefore, it is 15% of the 480?
Richard Thomas: Yes. We can give
you a breakdown by grade, if that would help.
Q75 Mr Roy:
Is that junior or senior management?
Richard Thomas: It is all management.
Grade 9 would be quite junior.
Q76 Mr Roy: How do you split between
junior or senior management?
Richard Thomas: I can give you
those figures if you like. I don't have them with me today, just
the split between managers and non-managers.
Q77 Mr Roy: I'd be grateful for
In relation to the turmoil in the Middle East,
do you regret announcing the loss of 60 jobs in the Arabic section?
Peter Horrocks: Of course; I regret
all the job losses. It is a huge loss of talent and colleagues
across the piece.
Q78 Mr Roy: Do you regret it more
than the rest, based on what has been happening?
Peter Horrocks: Clearly, when
something happens immediately after a decision that you've announced,
you are concerned about how effectively you will be able to respond.
If these changes had happened six months earlier, we clearly would
have had fewer journalists in Egypt; for instance, the radio journalists
who have been brilliantly contributing to our coverage. You may
have used the BBC live page on News Online, which has this amazing
updated rolling information about what's happening in North Africa.
A large amount of the information in that is being provided by
the BBC Arabic journalists, so, of course, losing that number
of journalists would mean that we are less able to cover that
Q79 Mr Roy: Based on those circumstances,
is there not a case for a rethink on those numbers?
Peter Horrocks: This is where
it is difficult to take a strategic view as well as being responsive
to events. If I were to say we will rescind all those job losses
within the Arabic service, I would have to find another 60 posts
across the piece and that would be very significant; the Arabic
service is one of the largest. We are in constructive discussion
with the Foreign Office about an initiative which has been announced,
called the Arabic partnership initiative, covering potential interventions
across a range of UK activitieseducational, cultural, etc.to
respond to the changes that are happening in the Arabic-speaking
The BBC has put forward proposals, both for
broadcasting and also to support the change in media organisations.
State broadcasting in Egypt, for instance, will be going through
huge transformation and we believe the BBC can play a vital role
in that, and with our colleagues in the BBC World Service Trust,
we are putting forward proposals to be able to respond to that.
We hope that if there is some funding available from that, we
may be able to alter some of those job losses within the Arabic
service to provide the programming that will help the Arabic-speaking
world to understand and discuss the changes to its society that
it is going through.
Chair: Mr Horrocks, we have four subjects
we still want to discuss with you. I would be grateful if you
could keep your answers brief.
Peter Horrocks: I shall try to
tighten up Chairman.
Q80 Rory Stewart: Most of us around
this table are very excited at the idea that you might get some
DFID funding that might be able to fill some of the gaps. How
far have you got with putting together proposals on welfare, poverty
and all the other indications required to qualify for DFID funding?
Peter Horrocks: Our submissions
to the Foreign Office, which were also shared with DIFD, identified
clearly our priority proposals, which were Pakistan, Afghanistan,
sub-Saharan Africa and Bangladesh. They were all defined in a
way that would make them absolutely susceptible to being scored
as ODA and we have defined them in those terms. We have also had,
through the settlement letter from the Foreign Office in relation
to our existing activity, a requirement that £25 million
of our existing expenditure should count towards development.
However, we did not receive any extra funding for that. Other
parts of the FCO family have received transfers of funding, as
we understand it, and your fellow Committee, the International
Development Committee, looked into this and identified that £60
million had been transferred from DFID to the FCO family, including
a substantial amount for the British Council.
We understand that a determination has been
madeit is in the settlement letterthat says that
£25 million of expenditure is granted on the basis that it
will support economic development, because free and independent
media help counter corruption and sustain governance. What we
haven't established is whether there is potential for that money
to be extra, as opposed to it just being counted something we
are already doing. We are pursuing both existing activity and
potential new services.
Q81 Rory Stewart: Can you give
us a sense of deadlineswhen you could get an answer, what
you will bring together and how you will make sure that you do
get the extra money? Presumably you are right, that that £25
million isn't extra money at all; you will have to find something
Peter Horrocks: We are making
that case in relation to the existing activity and the potential
future activity as vigorously as possible. We have been speaking
to officials in both the FCO and DFID about it over many months.
Clearly, how that is responded to and the time scales are a matter
for Government rather than us. Of course, the sooner we know if
there is any potential through this route will be very useful
in being able to adapt the changes which we have been discussing.
Q82 Rory Stewart: So no indications
Peter Horrocks: No. You have been
talking to some officials, haven't you, Mr Egan?
Jim Egan: It is correct that there
are no indications yet. The two questions are, I suppose, whether
the activities of the World Service could count towards Britain's
international development effort at all and, secondly, whether
there is any additional funding available for us.
On the first question, there was a clause within
our settlement letter from the Foreign Office, which stated that
funds are provided "to the BBC World Service in order to
provide impartial and independent news services as a developmental
good to DAC list countries." In the eyes of the Foreign Office,
at least, it appears that some of the activities of the World
As Peter said, in our submission to the spending
review 2010 process, we identified new activities of £25
million a year, which we think could contribute. All that has
happened so far is that £25 million of our existing activities
appears to have been rebadged as ODA-scorable, if I may put it
that way. We continue to think that there is an interesting case
both for ourselves and for Britain more broadly, but at the moment
we are not engaged in an active bi-departmental process, if I
may describe it that way, that is likely to lead to a resolution.
Q83 Sir Menzies Campbell: So far
we have not mentioned BBC Monitoring at all. What assessment can
you give the Committee of the impact upon the capability of BBC
Monitoring as a result of the cuts proposed in its financial arrangements?
Peter Horrocks: Its cuts are more
severe than those of the World Service. As was referred to earlier,
it was not provided with any specific funding in relation to the
costs of the pension deficit. It is having to withdraw activities.
It has already announced a cuts programme.
I think we can work more effectively with BBC
Monitoring in providing editorial information to BBC services.
Again, in our coverage of the Arabic story, BBC Monitoring has
been playing an enormously important role. I know that the United
States has expressed concerns about the changes to BBC Monitoring
Q84 Sir Menzies Campbell: The
Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton.
Peter Horrocks: The Secretary
of State has also noted the changes to the World Service. The
US Administration are admiring of these UK soft power assets and,
I think, are surprised by the changes. Undoubtedly, the changes
to BBC Monitoring are difficult.
The last thing, which I have been made aware
of very recently, is that there is some suggestion from the Cabinet
Office that its financial settlement to BBC Monitoring, which
we assumed had been fixed as part of the licence fee settlement,
is being adjustedadjusted downwardwhich would make
the cuts to BBC Monitoring even more difficult.
Under the terms of the BBC's overall licence
fee settlement, there is a commitment by Government not to put
any extra financial obligations on to the BBC. We think it is
important that that is stuck to. But even that position is a reduction
in funding for BBC Monitoring that is certainly very difficult
to cope with.
Q85 Sir Menzies Campbell: As I
read that assessment, the capability of BBC Monitoring is liable
to be very substantially damaged.
Peter Horrocks: It will certainly
Q86 Sir Menzies Campbell: BBC
Monitoring of course fulfils certain national responsibilitieswithout
going into detailusing open source monitoring that provides
information for institutions whose responsibilities are the defence
of the realm.
Peter Horrocks: It does. It is
a BBC editorial service, which operates under BBC editorial guidelines,
and, as you say, it is all about open information. In the agreement
that the BBC entered into with the Government, mechanisms were
to be put in place to ensure that continued flow of information,
even though the funding would be coming from the licence fee.
Up to now, generally, the interests of Government and the journalistic
interest in countries tend to coincide. The places that are hot
spots in the world are of interest from an editorial point of
view as well as from other perspectives. We believe that it is
possible to keep that consonance of interest, but with a different
Q87 Sir Menzies Campbell: But
the volume of the flow depends on the capability of the organisation,
Peter Horrocks: Of course it does,
and that is changing. That is not part of the licence fee settlement
at all, but part of the existing changes that are being made by
the Cabinet Office, which, as you are aware, has a stakeholder
relationship. It holds the ring for various aspects of the Government
and the BBC. That is the funding they have provided, I'm afraid.
Q88 Sir Menzies Campbell: Does
monitoring fall under your responsibility?
Peter Horrocks: It does.
Q89 Sir Menzies Campbell: How
would you characterise the future prospects of BBC Monitoring?
Peter Horrocks: Within the licence
fee, I am sure that the BBC will be supportive of it, but it will
be at a deteriorated, lower level of provision than was the case
before the recently announced cuts.
Q90 Sir John Stanley: China is
the most populous country in the world and is now the second largest
economy, yet it is a country that has a totally ruthless system
in place for suppressing freedom of expression, particularly that
of a politically dissenting nature. You could hardly provide a
more compelling case for the maximum possible involvement of the
World Service. Can you justify to us how the BBC can do away with
the Chinese shortwave service, particularly bearing in mind the
critical point that access to shortwave in China is risk-free
for the user, whereas access to the internet is far from risk-free,
when particular sites are concerned?
Peter Horrocks: Again, it was
a change that ideally one would not have wanted to make, but it
reflects the level of consumption on shortwave that we are able
to detect. Again, Mr Egan's department has researched and looked
Jim Egan: It is probably fair
to describe issues with our Chinese radio service as ones of both
supply and demand. There are issues with getting our content in
there because shortwave is blockable and jammable. The Chinese
Government invest quite actively in that, using both high-power
blocking transmitters near cities and skywave jamming within a
radius of about 1,500 km. That is an expensive activity, but one
that is used quite frequently to block our services. However,
it does not work everywhere, and particularly in rural areas,
our signal has been available.
As I say, there are problems with demand as
well as supply. In rural areas, we have not been able to identify
significant listening to our service, even outwith the jamming.
It is worth emphasising that the jammings have generally been
on our Mandarin broadcasts; we have never experienced any jamming
to our English-language broadcasts, but again, the audiences for
those are very small. Those are the problems. It is difficult
to get in, and even in the instances where we have been able to
do so, in such a highly developed economy as China, where people
have a wide range of choices for the way they consume their media,
it has not been possible to get the sort of impact for our Mandarin
broadcasts that merits the expenditure that we have committed
Peter Horrocks: We are investing,
and will shortly be making announcements about, new circumvention
technology that helps users on the internet to get round some
of the blocks put in the so-called great firewall of China. We
have received fundinginterestingly, from the US Government,
rather than from the UK Governmentin relation to researching
that. Our technologists are developing techniques that will at
least help those who seek out our content online.
Q91 Mr Ainsworth: You have an
audience for the shortwave Swahili service. How on earth do you
justify withdrawing that?
Peter Horrocks: There is an audience,
but there is also a large overlap with the increasing FM audience.
When people have both shortwave and FM, they invariably listen
to the higher-quality FM. We have very large audiences on FM in
Q92 Mr Ainsworth: In the urban
conurbations, yes, but this is a vast region with a long relationship
with Great Britain that looks to Britain and the BBC. It also
has, I would suggest, poor, unstable and far from savoury Governments
from time to time. This is the ideal area where a service should
be preserved. People would be forgiven for believing that it is
a little bit cynical on your part that you should see this as
the one area where you could force DFID to ride like the 7th Cavalry
to your rescue.
Peter Horrocks: I can assure you
that that is not our approach. It is a change that I regret, a
change that is forced on us by financial circumstances. We are
saving more than £10 million through our distribution changes.
There have been cases made throughout the course of the afternoon.
There is, of course, a strong case for retaining all those services.
I am proud of the services that we offer, and I regret the loss
to all those audiences. Those 30 million people are 30 million
regrets, as far as I am concerned. We are not playing games. We
are making choices that we feel we have to make in order to make
the books add up. We are looking to where audiences are consuming
us in different ways, and those economies are advancing. FM is
more widely available, not just in the main cities, but in smaller
conurbations. Not everyone who is losing us on shortwave will
be able to get us on FM, but a significant number of people will
be able to, and that is the reason for the change.
Q93 Chair: Mr Horrocks, in your
answer to Sir John Stanley on China, you mentioned a few technical
points. Would you be able to give us a note on that?
Peter Horrocks: Of course, yes.
Chair: I thank all
of you very much indeed. This has been really helpful, and we
very much appreciate your taking the time to come. Thank you.