Chris Patten seeks u-turn on World Service cuts

New BBC Trust chairman Lord Chris Patten has indicated he may roll back some of the planned cuts to the World Service.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: “I hope that with the Foreign Secretary we can successfully mitigate the effects of some of the decisions which were taken. I’ll be talking to him reasonably soon. I know he regards the World Service as an important part of this country’s soft power and I’m sure that with goodwill and without megaphones we’ll be able to sort it out.”

He continued: “I’m hoping on Arabic services we will be able to protect that as something that is at the core of what the BBC is doing.

“I’m very keen on the Somali and Hindi services as well.

“The issue is can we restore some of what was going to be lost and I hope we can.”

Patten also said he plans to bring in a new system to limit senior pay, signalled that digital channels BBC3 and BBC4 could be axed and said that it will be ‘extremely difficult’for the BBC to pay for sporting rights as it has done.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported on Friday that plans have been put forward by BBC director of news Helen Boaden for cuts of 20 per cent to the division’s £450m a year news budget. It speculated that this could mean the loss of as many as 1,000 journalists out of 8,000 BBC news staff.

Last October, BBC bosses thrashed out a new funding deal with the Coalition Government which saw the corporation take a 16 per cent funding cut in real terms (or around £340m a year). This involved a freeze on licence fee increases and the BBC taking over funding of the World Service from the Foreign Office.

In January, proposals emerged from the BBC to close five World Service language services: Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian as well as the English for the Caribbean regional service.

It was reported at the time that some 650 out of 2,400 World Service jobs would be cut to save £46m a year out of its £272m a year budget.

If the BBC were to cut one or more of its digital TV channels it could be that the World Service cuts do not need to be this severe.

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