The Commons foreign affairs select committee has rather hit the nail on the head with its concerns about the future of the World Service…
“We continue to be concerned that the protection of the BBC World Service’s interests within the BBC’s governance structure is not as strong as is being claimed,” the report says. “And the picture appears to us to be one of steady erosion of World Service influence within the BBC. The result may be that the World Service is more regularly denied the resources it needs to maintain or develop services.”
This does seem to be the problem. Swingeing cuts under a hostile government are one thing. But the people pushing them through seem to have little understanding of the World Service’s heritage and history, and who think it acceptable to splice together odd bits of BBC shows from elsewhere and call it an arts programme, then it suggests little more than contempt for the listener.
Repeating news shows endlessly through the day hardly seems the way to engage, for example, Africa’s growing, youthful population. I’m a news junkie and even I have to switch off after an hour or so.
So too it is difficult to see how anyone in future is likely emerge from years of house arrest lauding the way the BBC World Service kept them in touch with the rest of the planet, as Aung San Suu Kyi did not so long ago (although even she rather said that it was no longer the institution it once was…)
I say all this as a huge, huge fan and I desperately hope the MPs’ warning is heeded. However, I fear that BBC bosses now see the World Service as a niche offering, tangential to its core business – rather than the network that gave the corporation its global reputation for excellence.