The decline in the quality of BBC World Service radio programs has been underway for some time, with the elimination of one of its two best news programs, “The World Today,” some time ago. The remaining top program, “Newshour”, has lost some of the editorial judgment it used to have, and it is not unusual to hear one of its reporters ranting at a government official somewhere in the world rather than analyzing and reporting the news.
In 2011, the World Service quit broadcasting in Mandarin Chinese.
The total budget for the BBC World Service for 2014/2015 is reported to be 245 million pounds, which is a pittance compared to the value of the operation in demonstrating the value of freedom of the press and providing independent news coverage beyond the headlines.
Its value is most appreciated, perhaps, by those living in countries without a free flow of information. Stations like the BBC World Service, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, or the Voice of America may provide the only source of independent news reporting in a number of countries ruled by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.
Now, the funding of the BBC World Service has shifted from a subsidy from the Foreign Office to funds provided from the proceeds of British television user fees. It should therefore come as a surprise to no one if in the future the interests of those paying the fees produce a cut-back in foreign language programs and even the English language program of the BBC World Service.
It is amazing that in a shrinking world the lights by which we see its contours and details are going out. For a pittance.
(1) Belinda Goldsmith (London), “Committee fears for BBC World Service under new funding,” Reuters, March 31, 2014.
(2) Judy Dempsey, “Stop the Decline of the BBC World Service!” Carnegie Europe, July 3, 2014.
The Trenchant Observer