World Service may cut more languages

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The BBC's World Service will have to close some of its language services if the Government does not rethink cuts to its budget, it warned yesterday.

Unveiling detailed plans to cut pounds 6.5m from its budget for next year, its managing director, Sam Younger, admitted a further pounds 5m would have to be cut unless the Government increased its proposed funding.

That could mean closing up to six foreign language services. Vulnerable departments are those covering Africa, Brazil and central Europe. The pounds 6.5m savings in the radio and television service announced in March - following a planned cut of pounds 4.1m in grant-in-aid, to pounds 131.5m for 1997 to 1998 - will mean the loss of more than 100 jobs from a staff of about2,000.

However, the announcement is not connected with the bitter row which blew up over BBC plans to merge the World Service news with other news production, proposals made by the director general, John Birt, without consultation with Mr Younger.

Such has been the outcry over both the proposed merger and the handling of its announcement that the changeover has been put on hold until a working party set up by the Foreign Office and the BBC reports on the issue next month.

"We have done everything we can to cut costs while protecting services for listeners," Mr Younger said yesterday. "We hope that the Government will recognise what has been achieved and look again at its planning figures for next year. It they are not changed, our only option will be to close the language services."

The pounds 6.5m savings will be achieved by reducing services in some parts of the world. Cuts will also be made in central departments including personnel, finance, publicity and audience research offices.

The BBC World Service is funded by the Foreign Office.