BBC topper defends World Service

Chris Patten says foreign service is a priority

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten has signaled a U-turn on hefty cuts to the pubcaster’s highly regarded World Service.

In his first press interview since succeeding Michael Lyons in May, Patten, a former government minister and the last British governor of Hong Kong, appeared to put financing the World Service before the corp.’s U.K. domestic priorities.

“If you want to know how good the BBC is, just spend time somewhere else,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. “If you took anyone from any other country who comes here or listens to the World Service or looks at some of the BBC services, they think it’s a fantastic organization.”

The World Service was previously funded by the Foreign Office. But the government announced last year that it was transferring responsibility to the BBC from 2014. Pattern said he would lobby the Foreign Office over funding of the World Service.

As the BBC continues to work out how to make cuts of up to 25% to some departments, following October’s licence fee settlement, reducing its budget, there is increasing speculation that niche webs BBC3 or 4 might be axed and 1,500 jobs lost in BBC News.

A BBC spokeswoman would not comment on the rumors. “No decisions have been taken and therefore these claims remain speculation,” she said.

However, the pubcaster confirmed Monday that its West London Television Center is on the market. It will consider partnership deals as well as a sale.

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