Chris Patten: 'BBC World Service is in safer hands'

The new BBC chairman Lord Patten claims the BBC World Service will be in safer hands being funded by out of the licence fee than it was with the Foreign Office.

Speaking on BBC Four’s Today programme, Patten said:

I wish we weren’t taking it [the World Service] over with substantial cuts in the system, but when we have complete financial responsibility for it in 2014 I think it will be safer in the hands of the BBC, frankly, than it was in the hands of the Foreign Office.

The Government first revealed plans for the BBC to take on funding of the World Service last October.

At the beginning of this year it was announced that the service was closing five of its language services with the loss of up to 650 jobs, as it looked to save around £46 million a year.

The Government has since been urged to ring-fence the World Service from spending cuts.

Yesterday, Foreign Secretary William Hague came under fire over planned cuts to the World Service at a debate in the Commons.

Labour MP Grahame Morris said:

Let us be clear about the impact of the spending cuts on the Arabic division of the BBC World Service. In one month it will be forced to reduce its daily output of live TV news from 15 hours to seven and of live radio from 12 hours to seven, and it will also lose 44 of its Arabic staff.”

Labour MP Rosie Cooper added:

Described as the single greatest advertisement for Britain, the value of the BBC World Service cannot be underestimated, especially given that Syrian demonstrators hold up placards with ‘Thank you BBC’ on them.

Hague responded:

Nothing disproportionate has happened or will happen to the BBC World Service. The reduction in its spending between 2007 and 2014, the period for which the Foreign Office is under spending restraint, will be exactly the same as the proportionate reduction in the rest of the Foreign Office family and a good deal less than that for the British Council. It is important that we save money across the public sector–we have had to do so given the behaviour of the previous Government–but the World Service has a secure future, as does the Arabic service. Transferring the BBC World Service into the licence fee funding arrangement means that it has a secure future for the long term.”

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