We fight on, for the 140 million listeners

John Tusa on why the World Service must be independent

Share
Related Topics
Five weeks on from director-general John Birt's radical reorganisation proposals of 7 June, resistance to them as they affect the BBC World Service has continued to grow. This has taken BBC management by surprise, but has not induced them to offer any substantive changes. The critics must fight on. Why?

First, the reported so-called Birt "concessions" of last Friday do not represent a concession of any significance. Even if World Service News and Current Affairs remain at Bush House, they will still be transferred to the editorial control of BBC News and Current Affairs. Another layer of editorial and managerial control will have been introduced.

Second, the transfer of all other English language programme-making to the new BBC domestic "super" directorates destroys the essential integration of World Service programme-making, where the English service and the 42 other languages live off one another in a symbiotic process.

Third, in the past decade and a half, the World Service has made more and more of its programmes itself. As Radio 4 programmes focused more closely on the needs of their audiences, the World Service found them less suitable for their international listeners. When Bush House made programmes designed for the global audience, the World Service reached levels of listenership and respect never achieved before.

Fourth, the World Service had in the recent past to "commission" some of its financial programmes from Radio 4. They were never satisfactory.

Fifth, under the accounting systems that will prevail in the new structures, the cash-strapped World Service will have to pay for BBC domestic overheads in a way that it has never had to before. It is all designed to help the domestic services.

Five weeks on, the director-general proclaims the perfection of his plans; the possibility of error has never entered his mind. The chairman, Sir Christopher Bland - and how long did he have to scrutinise the proposals before rubber-stamping them? - rejects all criticism as "insulting".

Surely the time has come for some answers. They are owed to the 2,000 World Service staff, the 140 million listeners, and the countless British listeners who know what the service is worth.

The clock should be stopped at 7 June. Nothing will be lost by such a delay, except conceivably some loss of face by the director-general. Nothing should be done until the National Audit Office has scrutinised the Birt proposals to see if they will represent value for taxpayer's money, and will allow the World Service to continue to be editorially and managerially effective.

The writer was managing director of the BBC World Service from 1986 to 1992.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Humanities Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The leak of Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos isn't her fault. But try telling that to the internet's idiots

Grace Dent
US first lady Michelle Obama (2nd L) and her mother Marian Robinson (L) share a light moment with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his wife Peng Liyuan  

Europe now lags behind the US and China on climate change. It should take the lead once more

Joss Garman
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor