Implications of the BBC World Service Cuts

Written evidence from Trish Flanagan, Broadcast Journalist and Solicitor,
BBC World Service

In Brief :

· I request that the closure of the Caribbean service be reversed as it will have a damaging impact on freedom of the press in the region. 

· It is the only pan-Caribbean news service and is relied upon by thousands of English speakers to provide impartial news about the region.

· It may be perceived that there is a developed media in the Caribbean but from my experience of living and working in Turks and Caicos this is not the case.  I lived under the Misick administration which completely quashed freedom of the press. The one media people could rely on were the twice daily broadcasts from the Caribbean service.

· Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee will be well aware of the Misick administration and the difficulties in getting people to speak - one compared it to China.  I was at the session when Misick was questioned by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about allegations of corruption and sent the story to the local newspaper - The Turks and Caicos Weekly News. I wasn't sure if the editor would run it and I have to admire his bravery for doing so.  I had left the islands so I was in no danger but he was putting himself at risk by reporting a story which the then TCI government wished to conceal. 

· I know that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wishes to promote good governance in its overseas territories and there are four in the Caribbean region . BBC Caribbean is an essential part of good governance - promoting an independent fourth estate.

Biography

· I am a presenter and broadcast journalist with BBC World Service News and Current Affairs.

· I am also a qualified solicitor admitted to practise in the Republic of Ireland, England and Wales and I worked as an attorney in the Turks and Caicos Islands for four years from 2002-2006. 

· I was an avid fan of the World Service - English and Caribbean services - during my time in the TCI.  This, coupled with my observation of the importance of independent journalism in a country like TCI was what brought me to journalism.

· After doing a diploma in journalism I returned to the islands for three months in 2007 and during that time I worked as an attorney and also as a journalist for a local newspaper, the Turks and Caicos Weekly News.

· I joined the BBC World Service in 2008 and trained as a journalist in the Bush House newsroom.

Factual Information

Last year was an exceptional year for the Caribbean service. 

· They provided lifeline broadcasting in Creole after the Haiti earthquake and won an Association of International Broadcasting Award for this project.

· They gave in depth coverage of the arrest of Dudus Coke in Jamaica and broke the story of the death of the famous musician Arrow in Montserrat - huge stories in the region.

· They are a very streamlined and efficient team run under the excellent stewardship of Debbie Ransome.  I understand that it costs around £500,000 a year to run the service - savings that could be made in executive pay in Global News and the wider BBC.

· The service covers the whole region including countries like Cuba and Venezuela which do not enjoy freedom of the press in the same way as the UK does.  Many countries are too small to prevent intimidation of the media - like Turks and Caicos.  Those in power always seek to suppress what they don't want the public to know or put their own spin on information.  Without the Caribbean Service there is no one to challenge them.

I am happy to be called as a witness before the Committee to make the case for the Caribbean service.

11 February 2011