The UK government will invest £85 million a year in the BBC’s digital, TV and radio services globally, to increase the reach of the World Service and increase access to news and information. The plan is of part of the government’s National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review which outlines how it will ‘invest in our security and safeguard our prosperity’ in light of ‘threats’ including ISIL, instability in the Middle East, the crisis in Ukraine, cyber attacks and the risk of pandemics.
According to the report, investing in the BBC World Service – in addition to the British diplomatic service and British Council – will help promote British values and interests globally and ‘further enhance our position as the world’s leading soft power’.
The BBC World Service has a global audience of 210 million. According to BBC director general Tony Hall (pictured), the investment will allow for enhancements to TV services for Africa; new radio services for audiences in North Korea; radio and digital services for Ethiopia and Eritrea; and additional language offers via digital and TV in India and Nigeria.
More regionalised content to better serve audiences of the BBC Arabic Service has also been promised, as well as dedicated TV output for Somalia and a fully digital service for Thailand.
The dominance of services like Russia Today was a focus of a BBC statement in January this year, and it seems that the government’s investment will seek to give the BBC more prominence in the region, with enhanced digital and TV services for Russian speakers, both in Russia and surrounding communities planned. Hall has also promised a ‘video-led digital transformation’ of languages services.
“I warmly welcome today’s announcement. It’s fantastic news,” commented Hall. “This new funding is the single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed by any government.
“The millions announced today will help the BBC deliver on our commitment to uphold global democracy through accurate, impartial and independent news reporting.
“The World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports and one of our best sources of global influence. We can now further build on that. The funding will also help speed us on to our target of reaching half a billion people globally.”