Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The reponse to UK Government's recent Green paper on broadcasting is just out. The BBC does not go into specifics about the suggestions by the Blair government that BBC WS should cut several language services in radio to fund Arabic language TV. It welcomes the chance to review them though. Recent events in the "Former Soviet Union" would mean that some of the reductions suggested (up to 16 languages for radio to be scrapped) will obviously be toned down. But it still remains a challenge to start a substantial BBC Arabic TV network on a shoe-string budget with so much existing competition in the Middle East and beyond.
The response continues:
the BBC is the only international news broadcaster with a significant
worldwide presence in all three media – radio, TV and the internet. Its consolidated performance across all three media makes it the world’s leading international broadcaster with the highest international reach – over 190 million people using the BBC’s news services each week.
The BBC remains uniquely placed to provide the most trusted, independent and reliable news service in the world and to enable different people to connect with each other in open debate across boundaries and cultures, thereby bringing substantial credit back to the UK. As audience needs and viewing and listening habits are changing radically in all areas of the world, the BBC will develop an integrated global news strategy, co-ordinating its services across all media to deliver a coherent editorial proposition for relevant audiences, however differently the elements may be funded.
The World Service will ensure it invests its limited grant-in-aid resources where they are most needed, and will recognise the changing patterns of consumption and the increasing importance in important markets of both TV and the internet. The BBC therefore welcomes the opportunity to review the present portfolio of 43 language services with a view to significant change.
The Green Paper also reflects current discussions between the World Service and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the potential value of vernacular television services, particularly an Arabic television service, and the degree to which the World Service would need to reprioritise grant-in-aid to fund it. The BBC believes there is an urgent need for an Arabic television service and regrets that the Government decided it would not wholly fund the new service proposed by the BBC in the 2004 spending round. The BBC is currently considering what can be done from within existing resources and looks forward to progressing discussions with the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the most appropriate delivery methods for content and the range of language services for the future.
The commercially funded television news channel, BBC World, is of growing
importance in the delivery of the BBC’s global news strategy, and needs to be put on a stable financial footing. The channel has seen significant audience growth in recent years. Full-time 24-hour distribution has increased by 75% over the last five years (from 72.5 million households to 127 million) and in the last year alone distribution grew by 13%. About 270 million households can now receive BBC World for at least part of the day. It is the fastest-growing international news channel in Europe and the leading international news service channel in India. This growth has been at a time when most other international news channels have seen stagnating or falling audiences. The BBC is working hard further to increase distribution, particularly fulltime distribution in the United States.