Last night, MPs in the House of Commons had the opportunity to debate the future of the BBC’s Hindi service, which is one of the causualties of budget cuts. The debate, which was well attended, lasted about half an hour.
During the debate Edward Leigh MP (Con) commented that “Many BBC Hindi service listeners might be forced to switch to China Radio International or, for Muslim listeners, Radio Voice of Iran [sic], if the service is shut.”
The Minister for Europe, David Lidington, noted that “According to the World Service, the shortwave audience in India has been falling for some time. In 2007 there were 19.1 million listeners, but by 2010 the number had fallen to about 11 million. That is still a large audience, but it represents a reach of just over 1% of the population, although…the areas covered by the shortwave broadcasts include some of the very poorest parts of India.”
The minister went on to make an interesting point: “Some World Service activity may count as official overseas development assistance. We are discussing with DFID [Department for International Development] and the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] how BBC World Service expenditure may be reported as official development assistance. I understand that the World Service is discussing funding for specific projects with DFID, which already supports the BBC World Service Trust, the charitable arm of the World Service. The Government remain committed to an enhanced partnership with India.”