HC Deb 13 January 1998 vol 304 c141
13. Mr. Mitchell

If he will make a statement on Government financial support of (a)BBC World Service and (b) BBC World. [20425]

Mr. Fatchett

Financial support for the World Service, along with other commitments, is currently being examined as part of the Government's comprehensive spending review. The allocation for 1998–99 will remain at £166 million.

BBC Worldwide Television is a commercial venture and receives no public funding.

Mr. Mitchell

The House recognises the value of the BBC World Service as a major British asset. The World Service suffered years of enforced meanness from the Conservative Government, and I hope that my hon. Friend will accept the case for a real improvement in the BBC World Service budgets in the coming years. I hope that he will look in particular at the capital budgets which have been unreasonably held back owing to the hope, which turned out to be vain, that private finance initiative funding would be available for such a facility. Will he look particularly at those budgets so that the BBC can not only update its short-wave technology but provide FM transmissions where local conditions allow and move into the provision of television programmes in certain key languages?

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend is right to say that every hon. Member recognises the importance of the BBC World Service. Whenever hon. Members travel abroad they are told time and again that the BBC World Service is regarded as the most important source of independent and objective news coverage. I can assure my hon. Friend that we are in constant touch with the BBC. I have regular meetings with Sam Younger, the managing director of the BBC World Service. I am sure that our warm and friendly relationship will be maintained in future.

Mr. Blunt

Will the Minister acknowledge that the BBC World Service is on record as being extremely satisfied with the last financial settlement that it received from the previous Government? Will he guarantee that real resources for the BBC World Service will be maintained?

Mr. Fatchett

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the BBC is also satisfied with the settlement that is coming forward for the next financial year.

Forward to