It was announced earlier that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to cut funding to the BBC World Service. These cuts equate to job losses for about a quarter of its workforce, and the complete closure of five overseas language services, specifically Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Portuguese for Africa and English for the Caribbean. Other foreign-language services will also suffer, most significantly Arabic and Russian, but are likely to continue as purely online output.
The BBC World Service is the world’s leading international broadcaster, currently offering programming in 32 languages via television, radio and online media. It has an estimated 180 million listeners worldwide and is highly valued in many different countries as an impartial alternative to local, state-controlled media. It was famously lauded by the former Russian president, Mikhail Gorbachev, who listened to it while under house arrest in the Crimea to find out what was really happening in the outside world.
I was personally sad to hear of these cuts, despite sympathising with the general need to tighten our belts. As a provider of informative news broadcasts, the Service delivers a British influence worldwide. When I lived abroad I not only relished the broadcast content as a listener, but also frequently used its varied resources in my position as a teacher of English as a foreign language. While I know few people in this country without access to the internet, or indeed a television, it is all too easy to forget that in many other parts of the world a radio really is a vital connection to society.