BBC Trust press release, 22 June 2011
: "The BBC Trust has today welcomed the Foreign Secretary's announcement that an additional £2.2m per year will be provided to the BBC World Service over the next three years. Separately, the BBC Trust has approved the reallocation of £9m of existing World Service funding to editorial investment over three years, to mitigate the impact of recent funding cuts, following lower-than-expected restructuring costs and pension contributions. Together, this additional funding will help provide support to some priority frontline services, including sustaining the Hindi short wave service, the Somali service and services for the Arab world. It will also allow a small amount of investment in new activities, in particular on new platforms and in emerging markets."
BBC News, 22 June 2011, quoting BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten: "I am delighted that we have been able to work with the Foreign Secretary to direct some more funding to these services. The additional money will help protect BBC services in the areas where they are most valued and needed. However, it does not mean that we will be able to restore all of what has been lost, and there will still need to be some cuts to the World Service as we have known it. We are determined that, when we take full responsibility for funding of the World Service after 2014, it will have the priority it deserves."
The Guardian, 22 June 2011, Jason Deans: "This slightly reduces the impact of a controversial 16% cut in the World Service's FCO grant, announced as part of the government's comprehensive spending review in October. The controversial World Service cuts have prompted sniping between the government and the BBC, with each blaming the other. However, in recent weeks the new BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten, has been lobbying Hague about reducing the impact of the cuts on the World Service's Arabic, Somali and Hindi broadcasts. ... However, wide-ranging cuts will still be implemented, with five language services – Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa, Serbian, and English for the Caribbean – due to close. In other areas, World Service radio broadcasts in languages including Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Turkish and Vietnamese will cease, with output switching to a mix of online, mobile and in some cases TV distribution."
journalism.co.uk, 22 June 2011, Rachel McAthy: "The National Union of Journalists, which has criticised the level of cuts facing services and staff as a result of the funding reductions, said the additional funding was 'an opportunity to undo some of the damage'. 'It is vital that money to be made available is now used to restore confidence in the BBC World Service as a world-class public service broadcaster,' NUJ broadcasting organiser Sue Harris said in a statement. 'It must be used to ameliorate the impact of the cuts programme rather than ploughed into new ventures'. She added that it is hoped that the BBC will consult fully with trade unions before any further developments occur."
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 22 June 2011, William Hague's written ministerial statement: "My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has recently stated that his Department is discussing placing its relationship with the BBC World Service Trust on a longer term and more strategic footing. Any support to the World Service Trust provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) will be classed as Official Development Assistance (ODA) in line with the internationally agreed standard laid down by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). I believe that a proportion of the activities carried out by the World Service itself may also be eligible to be classified as ODA. The FCO is working with DFID to agree that any future ODA spend reported by the World Service is fully consistent with the OECD definition." See also FCO press release, 22 June 2011.
The Guardian, Organ Grinder blog, 20 June 2011, Dan Sabbagh: BBC Trust chiarman Lord Patten "seems keen to argue that the World Service should be a priority, broadcasting for foreigners funded by licence fee payers in council estates. Of course, he doesn't quite put it like that: he wants William Hague to give a bit more Foreign Office grant in the short term, so that when the World Service is funded by the licence fee from 2015 it comes in that bit more expensive, requiring a few more savings. Perhaps the service is worth it, but, frankly, it would be much more attractive, if the BBC wants to preserve its Hindi radio service (one of those highlighted by Patten for salvation), for it to do so by finding a commercial solution through BBC Worldwide. India, after all, is a fast developing economy, and it would beat spending licence fee payers' money on the service."
Update: Voice of Russia, 23 June 2011, Sergei Sayenko: "Evidently, the coalition government of David Cameron needs the BBC’s propaganda support in the Arab world, where the Corporation has a TV and radio audience of more than 20 million people. The Arabic Service is a powerful tool for shaping the minds of the people of North Africa and the Middle East in a way that meets London’s needs. And it remains to be seen which is more effective in, say, Libya: the NATO bombings of Muammar Gaddafi troops or a weighty Arabic word across the radio waves."
Press TV, 22 June 2011, Roshan Muhammed Salih: "[C]ritics say that Britain's influence is slipping in the region with the downfall of several dictators that it used to back. They argue that the BBC is a vital part of the UK's so-called 'soft power' strategy in the Arab world." With video report.
The Spectator, Coffee House blog, 22 June 2011, David Blackburn: "Opposition to cuts to the World Service budget came from across the House; but it originated from Tory backbenchers, who were very confident that they would secure a concession. The subsequent climb down suggests that Downing Street is prepared to consult with and act upon the wishes of the often recalcitrant Right. Away from Westminster, the decision to preserve the Arabic service specifically is clearly a response to al-Jazeera’s dominant coverage of the Arab Spring, which has come at the World Service’s expense."
CBC News, 22 June 2011: "The Arab Spring happened just a few months later and British MPs of all political stripes questioned the cuts, in light of apparent evidence the World Service was having an impact. Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service, welcomed the announcement that funding for the Arabic service would be maintained at its current level." See also BBC News, 22 June 2011, video interview with Peter Horrocks.