The BBC have confirmed that they, and the British Foreign Office, are considering cuts to the BBC Worldwide Service.
The two services thought to be most under threat are the BBC Russian service and the BBC Burma service.
Although the BBC is directly funded by license fees paid by British TV viewers, its World Service is funded by a direct grant of £272 million per year from the Foreign Office. Every British governmental department is under pressure to identify massive cuts in expenditure to cut the UK’s structural deficit as quickly as possible, and the Foreign Office is reported to have been told to identify ways to cut its budget by up to 25%.
Although the BBC’s Russian service is one of the World Service’s most wide-reaching and popular services – it has around 700,000 listeners across the former Soviet Union, and is complimented by the BBC Russian website, which is thought to reach around 1 million people – the cost of providing this service must be high, and presents a tempting target for cost-cutters.
Proponents of the cuts will no doubt argue that, as well as the financial imperative, Russia is a democracy (of sorts) and no longer needs such a large investment. However, this doesn’t cover the millions of Russian speakers who live in other former Soviet countries where democracy is often a distant dream.
I’m sure there will be opposition to this move (there was a petition last year when proposals to trim down the service were announced), but haven’t seen anything yet. If you’re doing something like this, let me know and I’m happy to publicise it here on Siberian Light.