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MPs to probe BBC World Service

April 26, 2024

By Colin Mann

The International Development Committee of the UK House of Commons has launched a new inquiry on the future funding of the BBC World Service.

BBC World Service provides news to radio, TV and digital audiences around the world in 42 languages including English, reaching a global audience of 318 million people. It is chiefly funded by the UK Licence Fee with additional grant funding of £104.4 million (€121.8m) from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Under this arrangement, the BBC World Service agreed not to close any language services – but this condition is set to be lifted in 2025.

BBC Director General Tim Davie made it clear in a speech in March that “we cannot keep asking UK Licence Fee payers to invest in (the World Service) when we face cuts to UK services. We will need to discuss a long-term funding solution for the World Service that comes from central government budgets”.

Given its impact on the UK’s development goals, and the projection of the UK’s values across the world, the International Development Committee is launching a short inquiry to establish the case for increased Government support and make recommendations beyond the current support package finishing in 2025.

The inquiry will focus on the BBC’s offering to celigible countries and the positive influence of the service as part of the UK’s soft power.

The Committee is now inviting written evidence submissions, by May 20th, addressing any or all of the following areas:

  • What contribution does the BBC World Service make to the development goals around the world and in ODA [official development assistance] eligible countries in-particular?
  • What soft power advantages does the World Service provide for the UK and the projection of its values?
  • What trends are there in the funding and support for internationally focussed broadcasters in countries such as China, the US, France and Russia?
  • What are the likely financial needs of the World Service in the coming years and the likely damage to its offering in the short-term if funds are not forthcoming?
  • What are the merits and concerns surrounding the possible funding models for the BBC World Service?

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