BBC World Service set for fightback in ‘information war’


David Cameron and the public broadcaster agree on one thing: the importance of the international station.

LONDON — When David Cameron announced his priorities for the U.K.’s defense spending last week, there was one pledge that took everybody by surprise: an extra £85 million a year for the BBC World Service.

The additional funding, amounting to a third of the World Service’s annual budget, comes at an uncertain time for the international broadcaster. Years of budget cuts, rapid shifts in technology, and the emergence of well-funded competitors backed by governments in Russia, China and the Middle East had raised doubts about its future.
With Cameron’s Conservatives seemingly intent on scaling back the BBC in other areas, executives expected to have to fight tooth-and-nail for more money. But heightened anxiety about the U.K.’s national security has made the politicians who hold the purse-strings more obliging.

“This new funding is a great boost for the World Service,” Mary Hockaday, head of the service’s English-language programming and one of the BBC’s most senior news executives, told POLITICO after Cameron’s announcement.

“It’s a very significant lump of money,” Richard Sambrook, a journalism professor at Cardiff University who used to run the BBC’s global news division, said in an interview. “I was delighted to see it.”

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