BBC chief says increasing World Service funding can boost trade after Brexit

Posted On: 
7th November 2017

The Director-General of the BBC has urged the Government to consider increasing its funding for the broadcaster’s World Service, claiming it would raise Britain’s profile post-Brexit.

Tony Hall address MPs at the Culture, Media and Sport committee
Credit: 
Parliament TV

Tony Hall said upping tax-payer funding for the programme could allow it to be made “free to view” in Europe - replacing the current subscription package - arguing it would increase the UK’s “influence”.

He said such a move on top of advertising revenues could mean “what we’re saying about the world can be said in Europe” citing studies which had shown “trade increases” when the BBC holds influence in a country.

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When asked if his proposals amounted to increasing "soft power for the UK", he told MPs at the Culture, Media and Sport committee: "We know the influence the BBC can have globally.

“We know for example that when the BBC is strong in a country, trade increases. We’ve not done that work, others have done that work to prove it.

“And I do think this is a moment, when I think - understanding all the problems with funding - if there is some way with helping us on this I think it would be very good for the UK."

He told MPs that while the increase in Government funding in 2015 had made a “big difference,” he urged MPs to consider further subsidising the service, saying the global media market was “very hard” for news channels to compete in.

Mr Hall added that such a move would allow the BBC to compete more closely with other state-owned competitors.

“Most of the competitors for television news are Russian, funded by the state, Qatari, funded by the state, or China, funded by a whole lot of money from China,” he said.

“We think there is scope for us saying in a really difficult financial situation, so we really appreciate that, the stresses on the Chancellor are enormous – is there a way of supporting this service..."

He added: "What I’m thinking is, is this the chance for us to do more of what the BBC globally does and to boost our reputation and therefore the UK’s reputation globally?”

Mr Hall’s comments come as the Government prepares to lay out more detail on its plans for Britain's post-Brexit trading arrangements with the publication of its new Trade Bill.

Although the UK is not able to formally negotiate any trade deals while still part of the bloc, Trade Secretary Liam Fox has started preliminary discussions with a number of countries.