Implications of BBC World Service Cuts - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence from Martin Plaut, BBC World Service News Africa Editor

I write to your Committee in a personal capacity and I trust you will treat this information accordingly.

I have today returned from a trip to South Sudan for the BBC World Service and thought the Committee might like to have a brief impression of the impact of the programming both in English (via the World Service programmes like the World Today and Newshour) as well as Focus on Africa and the Arabic Service.

I was in the town of Aweil in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. It is the state capital, with a population of around 54,000, with perhaps 20,000 returnees in camps around the town. It is predominantly Christian although the market is run by mainly Northern Muslim traders. Almost all suffered terribly during the decades of conflict.

I can honestly say that almost everyone we spoke to knew of and respected the BBC. And almost all listened on shortwave radio. Whether they were returnees who had come back after spending years in the North or the governor, who had spent years fighting the government in Khartoum as a member of the SPLA high command, every section of the community relied on the BBC output in one form or another.

It was a really humbling experience.

I attach a photograph of one of two restaurants which title themselves "BBC" in the town.

11 February 2011

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