£90m grant boosts BBC World Service

 


BBC World Service broadcasts will benefit from a £90 million Government grant less than a year after the body revealed cuts to jobs and services.

Thirteen months ago ministers announced responsibility for funding the World Service would move from the Foreign Office to the BBC.

Following the decision, the corporation unveiled plans to close five of its 32 World Service language services and axe up to 650 jobs over three years.

But today the Department of International Development, one of two Whitehall departments to have its budget protected amid huge cuts across Governments, unveiled a five-year deal with the BBC World Service Trust, the corporation's charitable arm.

Ministers want the Trust to target 14 countries suffering from conflict, poverty, poor education and restrictive freedom of information, including Pakistan, Burma and the Palestinian territories.

The money will be aimed at social networking websites and mobile phone technology as well as traditional radio output.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "The media could be one of our most powerful tools in reaching out to communities in the world's toughest places.

"Whether it is radio, internet or direct to someone's mobile phone, we want to give people knowledge and a voice."

Mr Mitchell hoped the plan would help teach people about the dangers of natural disasters such as famine, earthquakes and floods, prevent disease and boost democracy.

He said ongoing political revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrated the power of real-time news and debate.

He added: "The Arab Spring showed how access to free and trustworthy information can have profound social consequences.

"We want to build on that.

"The BBC World Service Trust has already shown media can drive poverty reduction and, with this support, we will help improve millions of lives across the world."

PA

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