Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

“NATION SHALL SPEAK PEACE UNTO NATION”…?

In A.Graham, Guest Feature on February 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Slashing the BBC world service: a Clarion report.

There was a time when the BBC’s world service was the flagship of the Corporation. It was the face of Britain throughout the world – and for millions it projected the way we were perceived by viewers and listeners.

The world service will continue – but it’s facing cuts, thanks to a reduction in the budget it receives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. And, from 2014, it will have to be funded solely by the BBC itself.

The immediate impact is the closure of five services, beamed out by the Beeb. They include those to Macedonia, Serbia and Albania, as well as English to the Caribbean and the Portuguese language service to Africa. Also facing the axe is the Russian language radio service (which currently has 1.2 million listeners). And an estimated 1.5 million tune in to the BBC’s Portuguese for Africa service.

According to the BBC’s figures, these cutbacks will lose them an audience of some 30 million in the countries affected – and 650 jobs will go.

ORIGINS:

The BBC world service was first launched in 1932, at a time when Britain had a sprawling empire. It was, of course, limited to radio transmission – and by the technology available at the time.

But it came into its own during the Second World War, when millions listened in to the BBC throughout occupied Europe and beyond. The BBC gained a reputation for “impartiality” and objectivity at a time when propaganda ruled the air-waves. Whether it deserved this level of prestige is a moot point – but the BBC emerged from the conflict with an untarnished reputation.

During the period of the Cold War, the BBC played its part – and as technology progressed, the Corporation was able to provide its rolling news service to the world on TV – though in many countries radio continued to play an important role.

WHY THE CUTS?

The cuts, basically, are being imposed by the Government. We all have to share in the economies that have to be made, they argue. But another argument that’s been put forward is that in this day and age of computer driven communication (via websites, “twitter”, facebook, etc.), the role of TV and radio is no longer as important as it was.

This is a debatable point. But meanwhile, the BBC is effectively pulling the plug on the Balkans, the Caribbean, Russia and Portuguese speaking Africa. Hundreds of dedicated staff are losing their jobs – and the role of the BBC on the world stage will be diminished.

And it’s likely that this role will continue to dwindle, as the Corporation devotes less of its resources to its world services. This could be the beginning of a general retreat.

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