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Location: London, England, United Kingdom

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

You can stick your license fee up your arse!

The BBC, fully commited to pissing off every Briton that pays for their service by law has stepped over the line with this one.

The BBC World Service on Tuesday unveils the biggest shake-up in its history when it announces plans for an Arabic television service, to be funded mostly by cutting eastern European radio broadcasts.

The plan to improve the BBC's standing in the Islamic world and take on commercial rivals such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya will cost up to £20m ($35m, €30m) but the UK Foreign Office, which funds the World Service's £239m-a-year budget, has insisted the cost must be met from existing resources.

As a result, about 10 of its 43 local-language radio services will be cut, including Polish, Czech, Hungarian and Thai, at the cost of about 200 jobs. A similar number of jobs will be created by the new Arabic television service, which is expected to launch in 2007.

The BBC set up a pay-per-view Arabic language television channel in 1994, but the initiative foundered two years later after editorial disputes with its Saudi commercial partner. Some of the venture's staff went on to work for al-Jazeera.

Surveys have shown the World Service reputation for objectivity fell in the Arab world during the Iraq war, but has since improved. Listener numbers have also risen in countries such as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan during the past year.

Tuesday's announcement is also expected to cover an expansion of the broadcaster's activities online, where Nigel Chapman, World Service director, has emphasised its capacity to act as a trusted hub for debate in the region. currently attracts about 17m page impressions a month, but the BBC has been examining improvements to the online service including offering video clips.

The BBC is also likely to announce a further increase in investment in FM broadcasting in the Islamic world and beyond, to counter a decline in listening over short wave radios and increased competition from domestic FM stations.

The decline of short wave radio was one factor behind the fall in audiences for English language programming last year from 45m to 39m. Globally, the regular World Service audience rose by 3m to 149m last year.

A World Service spokesman would not confirm the plans, saying the details were being confirmed and would be announced on Tuesday after staff had been informed. Jack Straw, foreign secretary, told MPs on Monday: “There's a strong case for the BBC Arabic Service . . . but the BBC's credibility is undermined if people think it is a mouthpiece of the British government or the British parliament.”
There is an even stronger case for British license payers getting value for their money. There is a stronger case for not fleecing the British populace. There is a stronger case for you and the BBC board fucking off and never coming back.

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