Letters: Fight for World Service culture

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The Independent Online
Sir: The crunch will come for the BBC's World Service when someone, journalist or accountant, decides that BBC News and Current Affairs and the World Service do not need separate staffs in overseas bureaux, which currently share offices but not people.

Your report "Birt stands firm against World Service backlash" (16 July) does not refer to the essential role of newsgathering in any reorganisation.

I joined the fledgling BBC World Service TV News as managing editor in December 1990 after 20 years, most of them at senior level, in domestic BBC TV News. My boss, the other part of the staff of two, had spent a similar amount of time in World Service Radio. The cultural difference staggered me.

My general approach, which is still that of domestic news, was that if Brits were involved in a foreign story outside Europe, it was an important story. Otherwise, it had to fight its way into programmes obsessed by domestic politics, crime and sport. I quickly learned that the conflict in Northern Ireland was to World Service only one of many examples of civil strife throughout the world.

Unless World Service retains its own bureaux alongside those of domestic TV news, setting their own agenda, sending their own correspondents, crews and producers to cover stories which have global significance rather than reflecting a British interest, the values and importance of the World Service will be lost, and it will be a grave loss.

The BBC is neither better nor worse than it ever was. It is merely different, reflecting a changing world. But values like editorial independence and integrity must remain at the heart of its existence as an international broadcaster.


Managing Editor BBC World Service TV News 1990-1993