Implications of the BBC World Service Cuts

Written evidence from Marc Starr

I am writing to protest and voice my utter dismay at the prospect of cutbacks to the BBC World Service.

It is one of the most commonly known facts about the WS that it delivers unbiased and balanced coverage in countries whose media are not quite as clear and free to say what they want or report things as they are. Even though I am not one of the beneficiaries of this, I feel that it is one of the greatest contributions to the world made by the United Kingdom and I urge you to see the bigger picture.

The BBC World Service is a beacon in the world and I’m absolutely horrified that entire language services are being taken off air - it may well be the case that a large proportion of the language-specific services are being retained, but tell someone who is losing their service that and I doubt you would observe them finding much solace or consolation in that.

In addition to this, on a personal level, the World Service has been something to be proud of on my travels. I am an interpreter and translator and one of the key experiences in my formation as a linguist was a year spent in Brazil in the 1994-95 academic year. The BBC World Service during that year was a link to home and although I took to life in northeast Brazil well, in the days before mobile phones I could afford and ready access to the Internet, in a place like the state of Paraiba, news from home was hard to come across and the World Service was a welcome distraction from absorption in the local culture. It kept my morale up and I really cannot underestimate the importance of this.

Even though now, if I were in the same position, I would have a range of newer technologies available to me, but radio is the one that is truly portable anywhere. It is something I could pick up in the middle of the most remote part of the Amazon, were I to go there, away from even the best mobile phone signals and internet connections. Radio is the only medium that suffers from none of the limitations that bind those other technologies.

I feel that the world would be a colder place without the embrace of this all-encompassing reassurance, for both British citizens and our counterparts in other countries, offered by a radio service such as the BBC World Service.

As a young teenager in the 80s, I remember a quote at the time from former PM Harold MacMillan, when he remarked that the Government was "Selling the family silver" in response to share issues. What is being proposed with the BBC World Service feels like we are about to pawn the family stereo system as well.

Please do not go ahead with this.

7 February 2011