The BBC has confirmed that 650 jobs at the World Service will go over the next three years, with 480 of them to be lost this year, as it tries to achieve a 16% budget cut. Many World Service radio broadcasts will be closed as audio services move to online and mobile.
Five language services will be axed and medium wave broadcasts to the UK and Europe will be shut down. Thiose transmitters currently have an audience of more than 30 million.
Five full language services will close – Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian languages; as well as the English for the Caribbean regional service. The BBC World Service will cease all radio programming, moving to online, mobile and television content and distribution – in the following languages: Azeri, Mandarin Chinese (Cantonese radio programming continues), Russian, Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian.
English language short wave and medium wave broadcasts to Russia and the Former Soviet Union are planned to end. By March 2014, short wave broadcasts of the English service could be reduced to two hours per day in Africa and Asia. Short wave broadcasts in all languages other than English are expected to end by March 2014 with the exception of a small number of “lifeline” services such as Burmese and Somali.
There will be a new schedule for World Service English language programming – a focus on four daily news titles (BBC Newshour, BBC World Today, BBC World Briefing, and BBC World Have Your Say); and a new morning programme for Africa.
The proposed cuts will save £46m by April 2014 when the stations transfer to being funded as part of the TV licence fee in the UK.
BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks said: “This is a painful day for BBC World Service and the 180 million people around the world who rely on the BBC’s global news services every week. We are making cuts in services that we would rather not be making. But the scale of the cut in BBC World Service’s Grant-in-Aid funding is such that we couldn’t cope with this by efficiencies alone.
“What won’t change is the BBC’s aim to continue to be the world’s best known and most trusted provider of high quality impartial and editorially independent international news. We will continue to bring the BBC’s expertise, perspectives and content to the largest worldwide audience, which will reflect well on Britain and its people.”
Additional savings will be made through the move from Bush House to Broadcasting House next year. Off-air functions at the service, such as finance, HR, strategy and marketing will face cuts averaging a third of current spend levels.
All the changes have been approved by the BBC Trust, the BBC Executive and, in relation to closure of services, The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, as he is required to do under the terms of the BBC’s agreement with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.