The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has warned the BBC against jeopardising the output of the World Service by pursuing a policy of funding the organisation through advertising.
In a report on Foreign and Commonwealth Office finances, the MPs said they “strongly oppose” the BBC’s plans for commercialisation of the 80-year-old World Service, which were revealed last weekend in The Independent on Sunday. The committee said it would call Government ministers and BBC executives to give evidence on the plans.
“We strongly oppose the proposals currently under consideration by the BBC Trust for a wider commercialisation of the World Service as indicated in the letter sent by the Director, Global News at the BBC, Mr Peter Horrocks, to Lord Alton of Liverpool on 1 November 2013,” said the report. “We expect to take evidence on these matters in the future, both from FCO Ministers and from the BBC.”
The MPs also voiced concern that the World Service was unrepresented on the BBC Executive Board and that its importance within the BBC was under threat. “We are not convinced that the protection of the BBC World Service’s interests within the BBC’s governance structure is as strong as is being claimed, and the picture appears to us to be one of steady erosion of World Service influence within the BBC,” said the report.
The BBC Trust is drawing up a new Operating Licence for the World Service as its funding passes from the FCO to the BBC in April.