The National Union of Journalists has condemned the Government’s rumoured plans to cut the budget of the BBC World Service from next year as part of its comprehensive spending review, which is being revealed tomorrow.
The union said it feared that cuts of between 25-40 per cent of the World Service’s near £300m annual budget were likely to lead to service closures and significant redundancies in the UK and across the globe.
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The Guardian reports today that the BBC is facing an overall cut of £556m to its £3.7bn a year licence fee income by being forced to fund the cost of free TV licences for the over-75s. It also reveals that BBC director general, Mark Thompson, is prepared to assume part of the World Service cost as a compromise measure.
The NUJ said it feared the Macedonian; Serbian, Vietnamese and Moldovan language services may close entirely or be drastically cut while the Ukrainian and Russian services could be based solely in those countries with the Russian radio serviced closed by the end of the year.
Journalism jobs were expected to go from the BBC World Service newsroom in London, the union said, with further cuts and restructuring expected across the Turkish TV service, the Central Asian and Bengali services, the Spanish American service and the Arabic service.
The union also claimed that cuts have been proposed for the BBC Monitoring Service based in Caversham which could impact on 300-350 jobs in the UK and 150 jobs overseas.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said: ‘The BBC World Service employs more than 2,000 people and a significant proportion are based outside of the UK and spread across 45 countries.
‘The diversity of staff and presence in so many locations around the world helps make the BBC World Service the leading voice in international broadcasting.”
‘At its best the World Service challenges corruption, expose human rights abuses and promote democratic values.
‘The World Service is a vital source of quality journalism; people all over the world rely on the BBC to tell them the truth in times of crisis.
‘If the Government slashes these essential services they will land a blow on objective news reporting and undermine Britain’s international reputation.”
Currently the World Service is paid for out of the budget of the Foreign Office but as the Coalition Government is set to slash the amount of money the service receives as it seeks huge public sector savings as part of its comprehensive spending review.