BBC World Service cuts threaten trade relations
The Government was warned that it risked hitting Britain's reputation across the world after funding cuts were blamed for the loss of 650 jobs and the closure of five language services at the BBC World Service.
The news sparked anger from opposition politicians and unions and led to warnings of possible industrial action to fight the cuts.
The BBC blamed changes to the funding of the World Service, which will be paid for by the licence fee from 2014 rather than by the Government, and made it clear that the corporation had made a strong case against the cuts.
BBC global news director Peter Horrocks gave the grim news to staff and said they were "clearly very sad", stressing the importance of the World Service to Britain's reputation across the world.
People who listened to the World Service were likely to trade with Britain, he said, adding: "We made that case to ministers. We explained in great detail the impact of the decision."
Former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane (Labour, Rotherham) said the changes would see "irreparable damage" done to Britain, telling ministers in the Commons: "You are doing in part what no dictator has ever achieved - silencing the voice of the BBC, the voice of Britain, the voice of democracy, the voice of balanced journalism at a time when it is more than ever needed."
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the BBC World Service had a "promising future" but could not be immune from spending cuts. Closures to services were to be "regretted" but he blamed them on the BBC pension deficit and Foreign Office spending cuts required by the "vast public deficit inherited from the Labour government".
The World Service confirmed that it will close five of its language services, Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian, as well as the English for the Caribbean regional service, which will reduce the 180m global audience by 30m.
More than one in four of the World Service's 2,400-strong staff will be axed, with around 480 of the job losses going over the next year, with savings amounting to £46m a year by 2014.
Mr Horrocks revealed that the Government had been asked to help World Service staff from other countries working in Britain on a visa who may not want to return because of safety concerns.