World Service 'should be protected'
The BBC's World Service should be protected from spending cuts to preserve its global reputation, a powerful Government watchdog has said.
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the service was so valuable to the UK its income should be ring-fenced - and a 16% budget cut reversed.
MPs launched an inquiry into the 79-year-old service, the world's largest international broadcaster, after jobs and services were axed following Foreign Office (FCO) funding cuts.
Committee chairman Richard Ottaway said: "The value of the World Service in promoting the UK across the globe, by providing a widely-respected and trusted news service, far outweighs its relatively small cost."
There was a huge public outcry when the Government slashed the World Service's £237 million-a-year budget by 16% and declared it would be funded from the licence fee from 2014.
The coalition claimed the cut was needed to tackle the budget deficit it inherited from the previous Labour Government. The Corporation responded by axing five foreign language services - Portuguese for Africa, Caribbean English, Macedonian, Serbian and Albanian.
It estimated more than 30 million listeners would be affected, a sixth of its global audience of 180 million, and would lead to the loss of 650 jobs from its workforce of 2,400.
Mr Ottoway said: "We do not believe the decision to transfer funding responsibility for the World Service from the FCO to the BBC will make the World Service's funding more secure. Despite all assurances, this decision could lead to long-term pressure on the World Service budget, with the risk of a gradual diversion of resources to fund other BBC activities."
The BBC said that it welcomed the committee's "strong support" for the World Service.
"The cuts being made to the World Service are a consequence of last autumn's spending review and the BBC regrets the scale and pace of cuts that have been necessary," it said in a statement.