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Brit MPs committee demand reversal of BBC cuts

April 13, 2011 - London

An influential cross-party committee of MPs in Britain has said that the cuts to the BBC's World Service should be reversed to protect its global reputation.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the 16 percent budget cut imposed on the service as part of the government's comprehensive spending review had "long-term ramifications" for the 79-year-old broadcaster and called for its future funding to be ring fenced, The Guardian reports.

The demand made by the MPs on the committee is meant to "prevent any risk of long-term erosion of the World Service's funding and of parliament's right to oversee its work".

They also questioned whether the government's decision to shift responsibility for funding the World Service from the Foreign Office to the BBC licence fee by 2014 would make its budget more secure.

"The BBC World Service has been described by Kofi Annan as 'perhaps Britain's greatest gift to the world'. The value of the World Service in promoting the UK across the globe, by providing a widely respected and trusted news service, far outweighs its relatively small cost," Richard Ottaway, the Conservative MP and committee chairman, said.

"The recent dramatic events in north Africa and the Middle East have shown that the 'soft power' wielded through the World Service could bring even more benefits to the UK in the future than it has in the past, and that to proceed with the planned cuts to the World Service would be a false economy," he added.

The cost savings announced by the BBC in January following the government-imposed budget cut included the axing of five foreign language services and a wholesale retreat from shortwave radio in an attempt to reduce the World Service budget by 46 million pounds a year.

The National Union of Journalists also backed the committee's findings. Its General Secretary Jeremy Dear, said: "The damaging service closures already implemented must be reversed immediately to protect the World Service as a source of information for people across the world.


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