Thursday, January 27, 2011

British Broadcasting Catastrophe

There's a hackneyed joke about cutting hair that says the cutting is the easy part; what's hard is knowing what to leave on. Somebody should tell William Hague.

The decision of Hague's office to inflict "savage cuts" upon BBC World Service funding has sparked a firestorm of protests in Great Britain. Read the coverage in The Daily Mail here. According to the article, the BBC World Service--widely regarded as one of the country's most influential cultural diplomacy tools--will have to cut about 650 jobs over the next three years, or 25% of its staff. 

"This will make the corporation drop five of its language services, end radio programmes in seven languages affecting major countries such as China and Russia, and reduce broadcasts of most short wave and medium wave radio services."

Politicians of all stripes have criticized the cuts. The Telegraph reports that right wing Tory representatives have suggested moving funding from the budgets for overseas aid or international development. To be fair, aid and development can be used for public diplomacy purposes as well, although their scope and purpose are widely different.

It's not clear is how Hague and his staff will respond to the uproar. Budgeting is difficult in the UK, as it is everywhere, and cuts must be made. But the Foreign Secretary's commitment to public diplomacy and his strategy for promoting it may adopt many different forms. One thing, however is very clear: There's a good deal of truth in the advertising slogan, "One wants one's BBC."

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