A group of writers, diplomats and academics has criticised BBC World Service plans to cut its Russian-language programming – arguing that the move will exacerbate tensions between Russia and the UK.
The World Service is reported to be cutting its Russian service broadcasts by 19 hours a week and scaling back on analytical and cultural features.
An open letter, signed by 64 experts, reads: “At a time when in Russia misunderstanding and mistrust of Britain has reached a height unprecedented since the end of the USSR, this deliberate reduction in the role of the Russian service seems a perverse concession to those authorities in Russia who have been doing their best to curtail the activities of all British cultural institutions.
“The BBC World Service should be held to account by the press for its inexplicable actions.”
In a leading article today, the Times said Britain’s relations with Russia were “thudding along rock bottom”.
“The Russian service is more than a news service for Russians. It is cultural diplomacy to improve Britain’s woeful image,” it said.
According to the Guardian, BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman said the changes were designed to boost newsgathering and strengthen its offering in peak time and on the web.