BBC says it will be 'better steward' of World Service as Foreign Office funding ends

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The BBC has said it will "prove a better steward" of the World Service than the Government as it takes over responsibility for its funding.
 
The move, which sees the end of Foreign Office financial support for the service which broadcasts around the world in more than 20 languages, was agreed as part of the last licence fee settlement.
 
A BBC spokeswoman said: "We believe the BBC will prove a better steward of the World Service than the British Government, offering stable and predictable funding rather than the politically driven cuts of the last few years. The World Service's future is safe in our hands."
 
The statement comes as an influential committee of MPs said the Foreign Secretary should "hold the BBC's feet to the fire" in order to safeguard the service.
 
A Foreign Affairs Committee report on its future said the BBC should "announce detailed funding" plans up to 2017 "as soon as possible" and said the service should have "a direct voice" at the top of the corporation.
 
Committee chairman Sir Richard Ottaway said: "We have always held reservations about the move to licence fee funding for the World Service and what that would mean for the World Service's budget, and its ability to be heard amongst all the other competing voices within the BBC.
 
"There is some good news coming out of our inquiry: the Director of News and Current Affairs made a clear commitment that next year's funding for the World Service will serve as a minimum for the following two years. We welcome that.
 
"But what is really needed is longer-term protection at institutional level, and we continue to be concerned about the absence of a direct voice for the World Service on either the BBC's Executive Board or the Management Board.
 
"The World Service does an outstanding job in projecting the UK's values abroad. It is an essential part of the country's soft power.
 
"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."
 
A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust said: "The Trust is committed to supporting the World Service, and has approved an increase in its budget for 2014-15. The new Operating Licence for the World Service establishes a clear governance framework to preserve the distinct nature of the service, and a remit, scope and commitments it can be held accountable to."

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