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

1  Introduction

1.  Our remit is to examine the "expenditure, policy and administration" of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and its associated bodies, the British Council and BBC World Service. This Report builds on our previous inquiry into FCO Performance and Finances which scrutinised the effect of the Spending Review 2010 (SR2010) on the FCO and its associated public bodies, namely the BBC World Service and British Council. During the later stages of preparing our Report on that subject, we learned that the World Service proposed shortly to make an announcement of the specific measures it was taking to implement the spending reduction imposed by SR2010. These measures were announced on 26 January 2011, in the form of a Written Ministerial Statement, with supporting detail provided in an e-mail to Members of Parliament from Peter Horrocks, Director of the BBC World Service.[1] We decided to exclude detailed consideration of the World Service from our Report, to enable us to take further written and oral evidence on this subject. Our FCO Performance and Finances Report was published on 11 February 2011, dealing only with the 'core FCO' and the British Council.[2]

2.  On 9 March we took oral evidence on the World Service cuts from the following witnesses:

  • Jeremy Dear, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists, and Luke Crawley, Deputy General Secretary, Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU);
  • Peter Horrocks, Director, BBC World Service, and Jim Egan, Controller, Strategy and News and Richard Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, BBC Global News, and
  • Mark Thompson, Director General, BBC.

The following week, on 16 March, we took oral evidence from the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon William Hague MP, and the FCO Permanent Under-Secretary, Mr Simon Fraser, as part of our inquiry into Developments in UK Foreign Policy. We took that opportunity to question Mr Hague on the proposed changes to the World Service. The transcript of that session is printed separately.[3] We have also received 51 pieces of written evidence. We thank everyone who has contributed to this short inquiry.

3.  The greater part of this Report deals with the proposed reductions in spending on the World Service over the Spending Review period, 2010-14. In a final section, we comment also on the Government's proposal at the end of this period to transfer responsibility for funding the World Service from the FCO to the BBC. We recommend that this should not proceed until satisfactory safeguards are put in place to prevent any risk of long-term erosion of the World Service's funding and of Parliament's right to oversee its work.

1   HC Deb, 26 January 2011, col 12WS, and "BBC World Service cuts outlined to staff", BBC News Online, 26 January 2011,, see also Ev 38. Back

2   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2010-11, FCO Performance and Finances, HC 572 Back

3   Developments in UK Foreign Policy, Transcript of session of 16 March, HC 881-i Back

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Prepared 13 April 2011