Leading article: A hard knock to soft power

Thursday 27 January 2011 01:00

At a time when our foreign policy establishment is struggling to sustain British influence in the world, drastic cuts to the BBC World Service announced this week represent a false economy.

After 2014 the service will cease to be funded by the Foreign Office. Future costs will be borne by the BBC licence fee. In Parliament yesterday William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, confirmed that 650 jobs will be shed under plans for annual savings of £46m. Five language services will be scrapped altogether, and radio programming in a separate seven languages will also be abolished.

The Government claims that no public service can be exempt from the impending spending cuts. And there are undoubtedly inefficiencies in Bush House, the World Service headquarters in London. But the proposed cuts are too severe.

The World Service helps to nourish democracy and political accountability across the world. Moreover, it produces much high-quality, impartial, and authoritative journalism. It exports British "soft power" and remains an island of resistance to the global proliferation of celebrity news. A relatively small nation such as Britain may struggle to be heard in the globalised age. Weakening one of its strongest international assets is a mistake.

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