"How to save the BBC World Service." (And how to destroy US international broadcasting.)

Posted: 24 Apr 2011   Print   Send a link
The Guardian, Comment is Free, 17 Apr 2011, Peter Preston: Some MPs "wonder why the ring-fenced, Cameron-sanctified Department for International Development isn’t taking some of the strain. The World Service costs £236m a year at current levels. By 2014, DfID’s budget is scheduled to swell to £12.6bn. Some small scope for a trade-off here, surely? ... Some shortwave efforts are out of time and out of audiences. But other spots on the dial – take the Middle East this Arab spring – are more vital, and more promising, than ever before. ... Why mimic the Voice of America’s blinkered funders on Capitol Hill, anxious to stop broadcasting in Mandarin (of all crucial languages)?"

CNN, Global Public Square blog, 19 Apr 2011, Fareed Zakaria: "Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called it perhaps Britain's greatest gift to the world but Britain is now taking part of that gift away thanks to budget cuts. I'm talking about the BBC's Foreign Language radio service. At one time it broadcast news of the world in an astounding 69 different languages. As a kid in Mumbai I grew up listening to the BBC World Service getting my first sense of the world around me. Around the globe, millions of others listened too. But the BBC has now decided to stop broadcast services in Hindi, Mandarin, Russian, Turkish, Albanian, Vietnamese and many other languages. The BBC says for many of the languages their radio broadcasts will become internet webcasts. But to take two examples: China has only 20 percent Internet penetration and India, just 5 percent. Maybe there is a billionaire out there who could fill this budgetary gap."

The Independent, 23 Apr 2011, letter from William Robert Haines: "I write in support of Stephen Glover (Media Studies, 18 April) [see previous post]. The BBC World Service, with its 180 million listeners, is the envy of other services such as the Voice of America, with its much larger budget. ... Rather than cutting back, the service should be expanded. For years, millions of the people listened to 'English by Radio', learning to speak better English than that spoken by local nationals. For years, this programme has been stopped, yet I still meet older men and women overseas regretting its demise. People who listened to that programme also listened to news and current affairs, an example of 'soft imperialism'."

Heritage Foundation, The Foundry blog, 22 Apr 2011, Helle Dale: "The Cameron government is defending its proposal, but it may find itself overruled by Parliament. A vote on the BBC cuts is expected this summer and is likely to result in a reversal of the cuts. Similarly, recent U.S. congressional hearings held by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R–CA) suggest that Congress might finally step up to the task of oversight of U.S. international broadcasting. It is not a moment too soon." -- So US international broadcasting would have to endure both a budget cut and Congressional "oversight," especially concerning its news output. I could not imagine a worse scenario. Well, OK, the failure to consolidate US international broadcasting would make it worse.

New York Times, 23 Apr 2011, Sarah Lyall and Eric Pfanner: A "license-fee freeze was announced last fall after a series of tough meetings between the BBC and the government, which had threatened much deeper cuts. As well as the freeze, which comes after years of increases, the BBC will take on hundreds of millions of pounds in new responsibilities, including paying for the first time for the World Service, whose £237 million annual budget comes from the British Foreign Office. Because of Foreign Office cuts to current World Service funding, the BBC announced last year that it would reduce the Service’s work force by about a quarter, losing 650 employees."

See previous posts on 21 Apr and 19 Apr 2011 about BBC World Service reductions.