Britain boosts funding for BBC Arabic Service

22nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The British government announced Wednesday it will boost funding for the BBC's Arabic Service in recognition of its "valuable work" during the political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa.

In a written statement to parliament, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Foreign Office would provide an additional £2.2 million (2.5 million euros, $3.6 million) a year.

It comes just eight months after ministers slashed the World Service's budget by 16 percent over three years as part of government-wide savings to reduce the deficit, forcing it to close services and cut 650 jobs.

"We recognise that the world has changed since the settlement was announced in October last year -- indeed since the World Service announced the subsequent changes to services, including some closures, on 26 January," Hague said.

He added: "It is right that we should look at ways in which we can assist the BBC Arabic Service to continue their valuable work in the region.

"So I have agreed that we will provide additional funding of £2.2 million per annum to enable the World Service to maintain the current level of investment in the BBC Arabic Service."

The Foreign Office will also look at providing funding for specific projects proposed by the BBC "which are designed to support the development of the media and wider civic society in the Middle East and North Africa region", he said.

Up to £1.65 million is available over the next two years.

In April, lawmakers on parliament's foreign affairs committee said the World Service's performance during a wave of uprisings in the region highlighted how Britain could wield "soft power", and said any cuts would be a "false economy".

The World Service has traditionally received its funding from the Foreign Office, although this will end in 2014, when the BBC will take over funding the service as part of the deal struck this year with the government.

© 2011 AFP

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