Written evidence from Mike Fox, BBC World
Service English newsroom |
- The World Service is valued for promoting the
UK to the world.
- This role is threatened by these proposals.
- Especially the withdrawal from Balkan languages.
- And the loss of radio broadcasts in many other
- Wrong to think should withdraw from information-rich
- Reduce cuts as part of strategic reassessment
of World Service's importance.
Biography: I am a senior broadcast journalist
working in the BBC World Service English newsroom. I've been a
member of staff since 1995, and have been an output editor on
Newshour and The World Today, as well as working as a correspondent
in North America reporting on attacks there in 2001. I have also
twice worked in our audience research department.
The value of the BBC World Service in promoting Britain
abroad is widely accepted. MPs from all parties and indeed the
current Foreign Secretary have often praised the organisationmany
have described it as the cheapest and most effective ambassadorial
service, one that is unique to this country. The walls of Bush
House used to be decorated with pictures of politicians, eminent
business leaders and celebrities describing how the service provides
them with vital news, and a lifeline where information is often
hard to come by.
It seems those behind these proposals have forgotten
that heritage and the role which the World Service plays for the
UK. Ever since I've worked here the World Service has been making
efficiency savings year on year, not infrequently at 2% or 3%
each year. In the recent past these have led to significant losses,
not least the Thai service, just months before the country's military
coup. There is no surplus left to cut, which is why these savings
will have such a huge impact on what we do.
In effect we are continuing to withdraw from providing
a broad-based language serviceit seems especially misguided
to be pulling out of the Balkans altogether, just when other news
organisations such as al-Jazeera are opening language services
The withdrawal from radio broadcasts in many other
languages is also a strategic errorwe may have small audiences
in some and suffer jamming in others, but when there's a crisis
and information is much scarcer, then our radio broadcasts would
provide a vital service at a vital timeas seen in countries
like Burma and Afghanistan where information is scarce, and indeed
during the current Egypt crisis where broadcasting remains vital
as the internet service is cut by the government there. And in
India we still have a large rural audience which closely follows
world and regional developments, where the loss of the Hindi service
will be keenly felt.
Pound for pound, the World Service is one of the
most effective arms of government spending. The total budget is
tiny compared to many other departments. It and the BBC are facing
swingeing cuts which seem to have been drawn up all too hastily.
I call on the committee and the government to reduce
these cuts as part of a proper re-evaluation of the importance
of the World Service.
11 February 2011