Fears that UK will lose influence after huge cuts at World Service

Protests took place outside Bush House, the BBC World Service's London headquarters, yesterday in response to the news that 650 posts and five language services would be lost after a 16 per cent reduction in funding from the Foreign Office.

Peter Horrocks, director of BBC Global News, who announced the cuts to the service's 2,000 staff in an emotional address, said: "I'm very sad to say that we estimate that about 30 million people out of the 180 million who use the World Service every week will lose [it] as a result of these changes."

The five language services to go are Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Portuguese for Africa and English for the Caribbean. Radio broadcasts will cease in China, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey and shortwave broadcasts will no longer be made in Hindi.

Commentators said the cuts would reduce Britain's relevance in some of the world's most important markets. "[It] is an unwise move at a time when Britain's influence in the wider world is waning as new actors – China, India, Brazil – emerge," said Daya Thussu, professor of international communication at the University of Westminster. "Such a move will erode the status that the BBC World Service has deservedly acquired over the last half century as the world's most credible and global radio network."

The National Union of Journalists, which organised yesterday's demonstration, said the cuts amounted to a quarter of the service's staff and was disproportionate to the loss of funding. Jeremy Dear, its general secretary, said the service would lose its position as the leading international news provider by audience size as a result.

Mr Horrocks said the impact of the cuts in some regions could be reduced by maintaining contact with audiences through internet and mobile phone-based services. "The best way of having a quality relationship with the audience and also to be cost-effective... is to move towards online services."

In an interview with the BBC he referred to the political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who had listened to the BBC's Burmese service while confined. "That's absolutely being sustained. We are making selections according to what our audiences need and that's a complex picture across the world." Asked if he had been angry at the size of the cuts, he said: "I don't know whether I was angry, I'm certainly passionate about it. Kofi Annan once described the World Service as Britain's greatest gift to the world. We fought as hard as we possibly could."

The cuts were approved by the BBC Trust, whose chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, said: "We want to ensure [the World Service] continues to be the most authoritative, quality broadcaster of news and information around the world. But we have no choice other than to live within the reduced government grant."

Correspondence released yesterday included a letter to Sir Michael from William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, who blamed the cuts on "the fiscal legacy left to us by the previous administration". Harriet Harman, shadow International Development Secretary, said the service urged the Government to think again about forcing the BBC to make the cuts which will "hurt developing countries".

The cuts in numbers

5 services are to close: Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa, English for the Caribbean and Serbian.

25 per cent of the World Service's 2,400 staff are set to lose their jobs.

480 of the jobs will go over the next year, with savings amounting to £46m a year by 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A full-service agency based in ...

Recruitment Genius: Subscriptions and Marketing Assistant

£12500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A subscriptions and marketing a...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising / Media Sales Executive

£15000 - £22200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious candidate is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Sub-editor - Editorial - Publishing

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A sub-editor is required to joi...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high