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Foreign Policy Foreign Policy

Place the BBC World Service and the British Council on a secure footing

Last updated: 09:02am 24 July 2019

We will place the BBC World Service and the British Council on a secure footing so they are able to promote the best of British values around the globe and build strong ties between our local communities and other countries.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.39

Our verdict

The 2017 Conservative manifesto promised to place both the BBC World Service and the British Council on a “secure footing”. To assess the status of this pledge, we’re looking for new or increased help, financial or otherwise, to both organisations.

The BBC World Service

The BBC World Service is an international broadcaster which delivers a range of regional services around the world. It currently has an audience of 279 million and broadcasts in more than 40 languages.

The World Service was once funded entirely by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). But since 2014 it has been funded by the licence fee, some limited advertising, and the profits of BBC Studios. In November 2015 the BBC announced funding of £114 million from the FCO for the 2016-2018 period. The FCO later committed a further £172m for the 2018-2020 period. In March 2019, the BBC’s Annual Plan said of the increased government funding:

“We were delighted when the Government [accepted] our case for the biggest increase in funding for the World Service since World War II.”

The British Council

The British Council is a non-departmental public body (a “quango”) attached to the FCO. It promotes knowledge of the UK and the English language around the world.  The British Council has traditionally funded most of its activities itself, with income from courses and exams it offers.

In 2016/2017 the organisation received £158.3 million from the FCO amounting to 14.7% of its income. In 2017/18 they received £168 million amounting to 14.3%. The Council’s future planning documents indicate £178 million in FCO funding for 2018/2019 and £161 million for 2019/2020. This is not a significant increase in government funding in real terms, nor as a percentage of income.

The government have kept their promise on the BBC World Service, but have failed thus far on the British Council. We’ll keep tracking to see if support for the British Council is forthcoming. For now, given the increased funding for the BBC World Service, we’re marking this as ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates.

Place your knowledge on a secure footing – get the details!

There's always room for debate

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