BBC chairman calls for additional funding for BBC World Service

BBC chairman Richard Sharp has warned that the BBC World Service, which broadcasts to 360 million people across 70 countries in 42 languages, is under threat of losing its influence unless it receives additional funding from the UK government. “We have already announced a number of changes to the World Service, in September last year… It now needs more funding to avoid further cuts”.

Richard Sharp

Speaking at the Whitehall & Industry Group (WIG) Breakfast Briefing on Thursday, Sharp said the role of the BBC World Service has grown in importance at a time when “news provision has become a key weapon in the battle for global influence”. However, changes in the service’s funding in 2014 have placed it under financial pressure.

Describing the World Service as a “global gold standard”, he added: “There might be many critics of the BBC. But there can be few who prize Britain’s place in the world who do not value the World Service. It has been a beacon of journalistic impartiality and a lifeline for millions living in fear, uncertainty or captivity worldwide.”

With commercial companies reluctant to invest in impartial news services and foreign powers creating propaganda-led news channels, Sharp said: “the case is now very strong for the Government to look again at taking back responsibility for funding the BBC World Service – at what is a critical moment for Britain and for democracy worldwide. We need to recognise our World Service as the priceless national asset it is, and back it accordingly. The financial pressures on the BBC mean that we have now reached a crunch point. The right funding solution has to be found.”

Sharp is also in the news this week concerning his links to former UK PM Boris Johnson. Sky News says UK opposition party Labour is calling for an investigation into Sharp’s appointment as BBC chariman “after it was alleged he helped Boris Johnson secure a loan guarantee before being recommended for the job by the then-prime minister”. The government has responded that there was nothing improper about the process of Sharp’s appointment to a part-time post worth around £160,000 pa.

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