Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Does the BBC World Service have a future?
The editor of BBC World Service News until earlier this year argues that the funding of the World Service through the licence fee strengthens the corporation's hand in negotiations about a new charter.
‘We all have to decide what we want to do with the World Service, whether it wants a strategy for growth or managed marginalisation’. This was James Harding, the director of BBC News, speaking at the launch of his Future of News report in January 2015.
When editors declare that part of their empire faces a choice between expansion or decay, they are, of course, not advocating the second option. But the stark manner in which the issue was raised – what do we do with the World Service? – chimes with a debate pursued fitfully within the BBC in recent years. When the corporation faces such acute funding challenges, what role is there for what's sometimes perceived as a heritage brand remote from its new funder, the licence fee payer?
If the BBC was designing a range of global services from scratch, it would probably not put as much effort in a global English language radio service as it would in television and digital offers. And if it broadcast at all in other languages, it might well be in a small number of widely spoken languages.