Archbishop of Canterbury praises World Service
Rowan Williams paid tribute to the World Service on Wednesday in one of his last acts as Archbishop of Canterbury.
He described it, at a service of thanksgiving for 80 years of World Service, as 'one of the modern age's great symbols of freedom of speech in the sense that it has fought back, quietly and persistently, against so many attempts to silence unwelcome truths'.
Dr Williams told the congregation at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square that free speech was not the liberty to spread trivia nor express abusive views but to share 'the reality of painful and difficult human experience'.
And he praised the World Service's commitment to 'ask questions of everyone - not just of foreign states and rulers but of our own policies too' and to 'searching out the voices that would otherwise not be heard'.
End Quote Dr Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury
We lose its distinctiveness, compassion and imagination at our peril”
He said the World Service had not lost its 'saltiness - the strong taste of honesty and courage'.
'We need it to flavour our national and international life and to freshen our vision. We lose its distinctiveness, compassion and imagination at our peril.''Greatest of gifts'
BBC chairman Lord Patten also addressed the gathering - which included past and present World Service staff, acting director general Tim Davie and director of global news Peter Horrocks - likening the World Service to 'the greatest of gifts; it hasn't faded with years - it's endured'.
He acknowledged the difficulties it faced - whether cuts, jamming or threats to its journalists - but said he had 'total confidence in its future'.
The move from Bush to New Broadcasting House marked 'a new beginning', he believed. Working alongside colleagues in BBC News, will 'enhance our ability to bring the UK to the world and the world to the UK', he said.
Staff from some of the language sections also spoke at the event. They read prayers, gave readings - one in Swahili - and reflected on their experiences of working for the World Service as well as what it meant to people back in their home lands.