BBC Global News exec: "We continue to deliver twice the audience for every pound invested than the American broadcasters."

Posted: 28 Nov 2011   Print   Send a link
UK House of Commons, 22 Nov 2011, oral evidence before the Foreign Affairs Committee by Lord Patten of Barnes, chairman of the BBC Trust, Peter Horrocks, director of BBC Global News, and Jim Egan, controller, strategy and distribution, BBC Global News: Lord Patten: "Both I myself and the director-general of the BBC have made it clear that we wanted to retain the funding of the World Service. We will have to explain clearly to licence fee payers why they should be paying for the World Service, rather than that cost being met by the taxpayer. I do not myself regard that as an excessively difficult job. We will establish an international committee in the Trust, which will be chaired by a newly appointed trustee, Lord Williams, whom members of the Committee will, I am sure, know. He is himself an ex-member of the World Service, an academic, a senior UN official and a senior adviser to Foreign Ministers and to a Prime Minister, so he is very well qualified for the task. When we become responsible financially for the World Service in 2014, we will set out an operating licence spelling out the objectives and purposes of the World Service, which we will agree with the Foreign Secretary. ...

"The BBC is hugely proud of the World Service. I have just come back from Washington, where, among other things, I spent a day with the World Service and our BBC bureau in Washington. In America and elsewhere in the world, the World Service is hugely well regarded, and I think that the Committee knows that in addition to the Committee being concerned about the cuts in the World Service last year, the State Department and our colleagues in America are very concerned about these matters as well. I do not think that all the Americans’ similar services, such as Voice of America, have an audience, in aggregate, as big as the World Service’s."

Peter Horrocks: "The audience level has dropped. It has not dropped as much as we originally thought it might, because we adapted the plans, but nevertheless it has dropped by about 15 million on previous years. It has actually dropped from 180 million to 166 million-that is 14 million."

Jim Egan: "I would not pretend that we do not have problems in some individual services in our audience, but overall, we continue to deliver twice the audience for every pound invested than the American broadcasters, for example, and much more than that compared with the budgets for the Dutch, German and French international broadcasters. ... Al-Jazeera has performed extremely strongly, particularly over the past few years and during the events in the Arab-speaking world. There is growing competitive intensity on the supply side, which comes from both the established international broadcasters I mentioned, plus new Government-funded broadcasters, with whom, frankly, we do not have the resources to compete. Part of my role involves seeking to place BBC programming on domestic radio stations, and we are just unable to respond to initiatives by the Chinese in particular. They will pay very significantly for their programming to be carried, rather than BBC programming, which we will never pay to have carried, because we believe in the underlying quality."

There are many more details about BBC World Service strategies and plans in this transcript.

As discussed in a previous post, the combined weekly audience of US international broadcasting (five entities in 59 languages) is 187 million, larger than that of BBC World Service (27 languages) at 166 million. The weekly audience for BBC Global News, adding World Service, BBC World News (the global English television news channel), and the international version of BBC.com, is 225 million. The annual budget of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors is $760 million, versus $338 million for BBC World Service. BBC World News is, in theory, self-funding through advertising, and the international BBC.com has already announced a profit.