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Sunday, January 30, 2011

World's most viewed news website BBC Online garotted with World Service

Very interesting article by the excellent John Naughton - Erik Huggers' departure marks a downgrading of BBC Online in favour of the apparatchiks in television.
Of course, there may be millions of foreign users of BBC Online (arguably more than BBC World Service, which is also losing 27% of its workforce, mainly the poor bloody infantry as the funding cuts were only 19%) but this ConLib coalition shows no sign of realizing that soft power is cheaper than the Afghan morass. His own Tories are very upset at World Service cuts, as the Foreign Secretary cuts it adrift of ringfenced funding.
Why do I protest about BBC Online and World Service cuts? Well, there may be 1 in 4 people not needed anymore - look at any bureaucracy or university - but they are cutting the lowest paid and presumably most motivated staff. What would be a better answer? There is none so long as the BBC is funded by a poll tax on UK television viewers (its free to use a radio as they abolished the radio-only licence fee). World Service should have continued to be paid by the Foreign Office, and frankly most of the BBC website is accessed overseas as it is 45th most popular site on the entire web (and top amongst real news sites as opposed to search portals and SNS)- and has 27m UK users a month. How to do that - well, overseas aid is increasing 37% and the ludicrous FCO still has enormous 19th century grandeur embassies in all the other European capitals -  as if the EU didn't exist...wishful thinking?
As for the howls of protest at Egypt cutting off Internet access and Vodafone's cowering - well, what do you expect of a brutal dictatorship? Its just not cricket. They are now threatening protestors with fighter jets, not just live ammunition and US-made tear gas. William Hague is an intelligent man with no clue how the Arab street works - as he beautifully demonstrated by returning from talks with Syria's hereditary dictator to call for restraint by the people being battered by Mubarak's thugs. Still, he's reacted better than Mubarak's family friend Hillary.

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