Chris Patten wants to save BBC Hindi Service

Chris Patten wants to save BBC Hindi Service

As part of the cuts announced in January, the BBC Hindi Service was to close in March, but after much criticism in India and here, it was given a year's reprieve (until March 2012) to explore an alternate model of funding to ensure its continued functioning.
According to Patten, the Hindi, Somali and Arabic networks are "at the core of what the BBC is doing".

He said he would lobby with Foreign secretary William Hague to ensure that such core activities of the BBC were protected from the funding cuts.

Patten told the Sunday Telegraph, "I'm hoping on Arabic services, we will be able to protect that as something that is at the core of what the BBC is doing.

I'm very keen on the Somali and Hindi services as well. The issue is can we restore some of what was going to be lost and I hope we can".

In its latest report, the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee said the proposed closure of the Hindi Service was a matter of "deep concern", and recommended that the BBC World Service should "commit itself to longer-term support for an unreduced BBC Hindi shortwave service".

It said, "We note that India is a major rising economic power and that the Government has professed its wish to improve bilateral relations as a priority. We further note that the estimated savings from reducing World Service operations in India, at 680,000 pounds, are small in relation to the nearly 11 million listeners that will be lost".

Responding to the committee's findings on the Hindi Service, the Foreign Office responded, "The BBC World Service told us that they made a decision to cease short wave broadcast in view of a falling short wave audience, and their broader decision to move away from short wave transmission".

The response added, "We were not formally consulted on this decision and we believe that the case they advanced for closure was not compelling.

We welcome the World Service's decision to identify savings from within its budgets to give the service the chance to explore a new operating model.

We very much hope that the reprieve will continue, either through a new model of funding, or from the BBC identifying funds from their own resources".

Lord Patten said he believed that reducing the wage bill of senior executives and improving efficiency can help to prevent the BBC's most important services from being axed.

He said, "I hope that with the Foreign Secretary we can successfully mitigate the effects of some of the decisions which were taken. I'll be talking to him reasonably soon.

I know he regards the World Service as an important part of this country's soft power and I'm sure that with goodwill and without megaphones we'll be able to sort it out".

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