The Independent and The Times both have leaders today criticising the planned cuts to BBC World Service, which could see up to 650 jobs axed.
The Independent says: "At a time when our foreign policy establishment is struggling to sustain British influence in the world, drastic cuts to the BBC World Service announced this week represent a false economy.
It also claims: "The World Service helps to nourish democracy and political accountability across the world. Moreover, it produces much high-quality, impartial, and authoritative journalism. It exports British "soft power" and remains an island of resistance to the global proliferation of celebrity news. A relatively small nation such as Britain may struggle to be heard in the globalised age. Weakening one of its strongest international assets is a mistake."
The Times asks: "Is this the wisest way for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which remains the World Service’s paymaster until the burden passes to the BBC in 2014, to share its load of the Government’s budget cuts? The World Service carries a unique voice, offering serious reporting and analysis of the world — often where no such broadcasting exists, and generally where it is not being provided by a UK competitor. Its reputation for impartial news, calmly delivered, bothers despots from Burma to Iran and boosts the spirits of those whom they bully."
It concludes: "Budgetary belts are, rightly, being tightened across Whitehall. But in seeking to cut £46 million from the World Service’s budget the Foreign Office is surrendering Britain’s global need for a channel through which nation can continue to speak unto nation because it is shirking the challenge of finding cost savings in its own backyard."
Pic: NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear speaking at a demo outside Bush House against the World Service cuts yesterday. (Jon Slattery)