Funding cuts hit BBC World Service ratings

The audience for the global service has fallen by 14 million, following government funding cuts

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Cuts to BBC World Service have caused the station’s global audience to fall by 14 million, new figures reveal.

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In January the World Service had its budget slashed by 16% by the Foreign Office, leading to the closure of five language services: Albanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and English for the Caribbean.

The overall audience estimate for 2010/11 was 166 million, down from 180 million over the previous 12 months.

The cuts involve a heavier emphasis on broadcasting online – and the World Service’s online audience has risen by 40%, with 10 million unique weekly users.

The BBC Arabic Service was saved last month when the Government allocated an extra £2.2m to safeguard what Foreign Secretary William Hague called its “valuable work in the region”.

Peter Horrocks, director of BBC Global News, said: “We’ve had to make considerable changes to the World Service over the past year due to the cut in our funding from the Government and this was always going to result in a drop in our audience figures.

“The World Service has been looking hard at the best way to provide impartial news and information to our audiences going forward, and it’s encouraging to see improvement in key areas. The strong international journalism from the World Service, particularly during the Arab Spring, has been a key part of the significant increases for online, English radio and Arabic television.”

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In 2014, government funding of the World Service will end, with the station being paid for by licence fee funds.