The Week In Radio: In any language, the BBC World Service does a world of good

In a revealing glimpse it emerged this week that during her house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi spent up to six hours a day listening to the BBC World Service. At a time when we're supposed to be focusing on British exports, the World Service is one export that often gets overlooked. Granted, it costs us money and is provided free to customers, but in terms of power and influence its earnings are unquantifiable. You could say that the BBC, broadcasting to 180 million people around the world, is our biggest brand.

The World Service was recently dealt a double whammy. Firstly a budget cut of £67m over four years that will certainly involve hundreds of job losses and ultimately the loss of some of its 31 language services. The NUJ suggests the Macedonian, Serbian, Vietnamese and Russian language services could either be closed or radically reduced. The second change is more double-edged. It's often forgotten that since it was founded in 1932 with a brief to promote British culture, the World Service has been funded by the Foreign Office, a situation which has allowed some regimes to describe it as a "state broadcaster". Henceforth under the licence fee it can proclaim its independence. Most have welcomed this move, but there are dangers too. If the BBC has to prioritise broadcasting to say Moldavia, or Manchester, who will get squeezed?

The English-language service, which reaches 39 million around the world and about 1.3 million here at home, is also scheduled for cuts, and arts programming – as always – is first in line. Regular drama will be scrapped from April and the Proms and Wimbledon have also been decommissioned. Science looks a bit safer thankfully, judging by the wonderfully ambitious Exchanges at the Frontier, which sets out to tackle science at its mind-boggling cutting edge. So far, A C Grayling has tackled malaria and ageing, and there's Alzheimer's coming up. On Saturday he could be heard discussing particle physics with the go-to guy for String Theory, Professor Brian Greene.

String Theory, as you know, attempts to unite the theories of gravity and quantum which have so far seemed stubbornly irreconcilable. There are many who say that if you think you understand String Theory, you don't understand it, but Professor Greene is so good at metaphors (the earth moving through a warped space time environment is "a bowling ball on a trampoline") that the credulous listener believes for a moment they might actually grasp it. However, to make String Theory work, you need to envisage more than three dimensions, and it was here that O-level science really fell down. We were asked to imagine a loaf of bread. "One slice contains everything that is the universe, but there are other slices of bread in the cosmic loaf and in an alternate version of the Big Bang two giant slices of bread slam into each other and release so much energy that over time they re-coalesce into stars and people."

To be honest, at this point the discussion might as well have been in one of the other, more distant language services, as far as my own comprehension went. But Grayling was serenely unfazed throughout, and most importantly, he let the expert do the talking.

Just as tricky an interview, in a different way, was conducted by Fergal Keane in the first of Radio 4's Taking a Stand, in a dignified and moving exchange with André Hanscombe, the widower of Rachel Nickell. The most chastening part was Hanscombe's account of the media when he and his young son visited Wimbledon Common. "They wouldn't give us any space," he said. "It was primal, a totally uncivilised experience. You see how thin the veneer of civilisation really is." Thus, whether it's as lifeline or liability, twin facets of the media were on display this week.

jane@janethynne.com

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable