World Service broadcasts face choking cuts

The BBC World Service could be forced to withdraw its broadcasts in countries like Burma, where the shadow foreign secretary warns, “the only other messages blend threats and propaganda”.

The BBC is currently holding talks to stem proposed cuts to the World Service budget, which could result in a deficit of up to 25 per cent from April 2011.

According to one diplomatic source quoted by the Guardian, “the human rights argument doesn’t hold much sway with the new foreign office”.

The World Service currently receives a £272m grant from the foreign office, a figure that, if cut, will mean the service will have to pull out of countries where free speech is at a minimum.

Services most at risk are those in Burma and Russia, the latter of which reaches around 700,000 listeners and a further million via its Russian-language website.

David Milliband, shadow foreign secretary has called on the government to ensure that the service remains available, warning that scrapping the World Service in Burma “would be a gift to the military junta, and an insult to political prisoners locked in Burma’s jails for no crime”.

Talks are expected to last for around six weeks, with the outcome of the consultation to be revealed on 20 October.

A World Service spokesperson told the Guardian that it will “continue to argue confidently that the service is one of Britain’s most effective and vital assets in the global arena, particularly at a time when other governments are increasing, not reducing, their own investments in international broadcasting”.

This article appears in issue 251 of Media Digest.

Image taken by Flickr user sprklg, licenced under Creative Commons.

(Source: MediaGuardian)




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