This week, a new direction emerges for the BBC World Service, as on 1 April it will transfer from funding from the Foreign Office to the BBC licence fee, a move, since the plans to do so came to fr
This week, a new direction emerges for the BBC World Service, as on 1 April it will transfer from funding from the Foreign Office to the BBC licence fee, a move, since the plans to do so came to fruition nearly 4 years ago, caused a series of debates as to whether the World Service can survive.
Today, on the final day the World Service receives funding from the Foreign Office, Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee released a report on the future of the World Service, and whether the BBC can do enough to ensure it is protected. In its report, the committee had reservations about the move since it was announced in the Spending Review in 2010.
‘Values and interests of the UK’
The committee, while happy that Director of News, James Harding, said the BBC would maintain the World Service’s budget through the end of the licence fee period using the budget from the 2014-15 fiscal year as a baseline, urged the BBC to reveal funding plans for 2015-16 and 2016-17 as soon as possible, to allow for more long term planning.
The committee said it has disagreements with the BBC on governance, and recommended that the BBC allows direct representation of the World Service on its management board.
The committee added that it would continue to “speak up” for the World Service “and its role in protecting the values and interests of the UK and across the world,” and urged the Foreign Secretary and those who hold the post in the future to do so also.
In an accompanying statement, Sir Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the committee, said the World Service had become a great defender of the UK’s values abroad.
“It is an essential part of the country’s ‘soft power,’” Ottaway said. “We have yet to see whether the BBC will be the custodian that the country needs, and so we welcome the Foreign Secretary’s assurance that he will “hold the BBC’s feet to the fire” to protect the interests of the World Service. We urge him and his successors to honour that commitment.”
The next steps
Commenting on the report, a BBC spokesperson said they welcomed the support of the committee. “We believe the BBC will be a better steward of the World Service than the British government,” the spokesperson said, adding that the funding to the World Service will be stable. “The World Service is safe in our hands.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office could not be reached for comment prior to the publication of this article.
The future of the World Service, for the moment, appears to be safe, but also is facing some uncertainty, as its supporters look to Lord Hall and the corporation to ensure its backing, as negotiations surrounding the royal charter continue, leading to what perhaps could be a new chapter for the BBC as a whole.
All that can be done now is stay tuned.
What do you think? How will the acquisition of the World Service onto the licence fee affect the future of the BBC? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: m0gky / Flickr