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15 March 2011

John Tusa, former director of the BBC World Service, will speak at the public meeting in the House of Commons tonight (15 March) called to press the government to row back on planned cuts to the World Service.

The meeting, in Committee Room 14 at the House, kicks off at 18.30 and all are welcome. If you plan to attend you are advised to arrive at St Stephens Gate, 20 minutes before the start time to go through security. In addition a lobby of parliament takes place this afternoon.

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Last week BECTU's assistant general secretary, Luke Crawley, joined the NUJ's Jeremy Dear to give evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in defence of the World Service. The committee also heard from senior BBC management.

In its submission to the committee's enquiry BECTU highlights the enormous risk to jobs, the huge loss which will be suffered by the World Service audience and criticised foreign secretary, William Hague, and BBC management for their failure to defend the World Service. Read BECTU's submission to the Committee here

Massive job cuts

Out of 2400 World Service jobs, 650 posts are at risk because of disproportionate cuts imposed by the Foreign Office in response to the government's Comprehensive Spending Review. The cuts extend over all areas including foreign language services, news gathering, playout, finance, studio management and TV operations. The BBC insists that cuts must be front-loaded with 480 set to close in the next 12 months.

In a press statement issued yesterday, colleagues in the NUJ also emphasised the many negative impacts of the proposed cuts of £46m per year by 2014:

  • Thirty million short-wave listeners will no longer be able to hear the BBC World Service;
  •  Another twenty million listeners could lose their signal if other changes being considered for English and twelve remaining shortwave services go ahead;
  • Job cuts will result in a noticeable drop in quality especially in the core area of World Service News, in the Language Services and in BBC Monitoring;
  • The Europe Today programme, whose expertise is used throughout the BBC, is to disappear in the cuts;
  • The Politics UK programme is also going.

The fight to stop the closures

The BBC's plans also include shutting down the medium wave World Service in English to Europe. In addition more than a dozen other services including Caribbean, Russian, Chinese, Azeri and Vietnamese, together with short-wave services in Indonesian, Kyrgyz, Nepali, and Swahili are scheduled for closure before the end of March.

Other closures have already taken place amongst them the BBC Portuguese service to Africa, the Spanish Latin American service (BBC Mundo), and the services to Serbia, Albania and Macedonia. BBC Mundo retains a weekly podcast.
The following speakers will join BECTU and NUJ reps and members, campaigners and MPs at tonight's meeting:  Luke Crawley, BECTU assistant general secretary;
Owen Tudor, head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department; Patrick French, British writer and historian; William Horsley, international director of the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield; John Tusa, director of the BBC World Service 1986 -1993; Alan Johnson, journalist; Jo Glanville, editor of Index on Censorship.