worldserviceThe government has promised to invest an annual £85 million (€121 million) in the BBC’s digital, TV and radio services as part of the Strategic Defence Review.
It marks an about-turn for policymakers, which is 2010 ended the tradition that the BBC World Service should be funded through foreign office grants, rather than the Licence Fee. Previously, the BBC had been on the receiving end of a £253 million grant. Its partial restoration comes in return for the expansion of services North Korea, Russian speaking areas, the Middle East and Africa.
The emphasis will be on digital and video, rather than radio. Although the government is directing the areas it wants the BBC to broadcast to, editorial control will remain firmly with the BBC.

Director-general Tony Hall welcomed the announcement as “fantastic news”.

“This new funding is the single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed by any government… The World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports and one of our best sources of global influence. We can now further build on that. The funding will also help speed us on to our target of reaching half a billion people globally.”

The new funding will cover:

  • Enhanced TV services for Africa
  • New radio services for audiences in North Korea; radio and digital services for Ethiopia and Eritrea
  • Additional language offers via digital and TV in India and Nigeria
  • More regionalised content to better serve audiences to the BBC Arabic Service
  • Dedicated TV output for Somalia and a fully digital service for Thailand
  • Enhanced digital and TV services for Russian speakers, both in Russia and surrounding communities
  • A video-led digital transformation of Languages services
  • To expand the impact and future-proof World Service English

The BBC is looking to expand its global reach from the current 300 million to a new target of 500 million.

The operation is separate from the commercially run BBC World News.

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By Expat