It’s a fascinating deal, given that until now the British government, through the FCO, has funded the World Service fully. A recent 16 per cent cut in the grant has led to 650 job cuts and the BBC recently ‘volunteered’ to fund the World Service itself from 2014 so that it’s going to be paid for entirely by license fee-payers in the UK.
That’s got to be a bad idea. The idea behind the FCO funding (which incidentally left editorial judgement to the BBC) was that the World Service promotes British culture and values abroad. It’s something I’m happy to support but it’s entirely fair for license fee-payers here to ask why they should have to pay for such things.
The World Service is the best thing about British broadcasting. It’s informative, erudite and entertaining, and it would be a great shame to lose it. If the American money allows it to continue doing what it does, and without becoming like the turgid Voice of America, that ought to be a good thing.