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Could advertisements fund the World Service?

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Cathy Packe | 16:01 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

This week our inbox has been overflowing with emails about the recently-announced changes to the way the World Service is to be funded from 2014, when, like the rest of the BBC, it will be paid for from the UK TV licence.


BBC Director General Mark Thompson outside Television Centre, London.
Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, outside Television Centre last week. Picture: Getty Images


Interestingly, quite a number of listeners outside the UK want to be able to make financial contribution – although as Alice Choyke from Hungary points out, “it is clearly not possible to make this mandatory”. 

So it’s a topic that Rajan raises on this week’s programme with Professor Stephen Barnett, from the University of Westminster.  He rules out the idea of listeners’ contributions – you can hear why on the programme.

Rajan asked him whether advertising might be a better option.

Professor Barnett’s view is that “there’ll be a lot of people against that because there is a problem with contaminating the BBC brand, and I think both the BBC corporately and its listeners and viewers would worry about that”.

So we’re interested to know what you think about that. 

Would listening to adverts between programmes drive you mad? Would you feel it was contaminating the brand?  Or would you be happy if it meant there was more money available for programmes? 

We also hear from a regular listener, Dipak Bhandari from Kathmandu in Nepal, who tells Rajan how valuable the World Service is in his country. 

And to reinforce his point, we also hear from Narayan Shrestha, who presents a discussion programme made by the World Service Trust and broadcast on 130 radio stations across Nepal.

The idea is to let listeners speak directly to politicians, something they don’t have the opportunity to do elsewhere.

Cathy Packe is the Producer, Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).



  • Comment number 1.

    Dear World Service,

    I agree with the listeners who have expressed dismay at the idea of the World Service becoming advertising funded in the regular way. I would hasten to say though that I would be even more dismayed if the World Service were to be progressively starved to death financially. I am reminded of one definition of 'Progress' as being what happens when the previously unthinkable becomes the least objectionable alternative.

    On the subject of the value of the World Service to the British as a nation there can be no doubt. To expose something so valuable to the risk of being crippled financially because of the kind of spurious arguments which will take place because you seek to make aesthetic changes to a budget in hard times is political cowardice of a venal kind. This is not the act of a Government with the country's interests as it's top priority.

    We also have access here to American Public Television. This is funded by a mix of public money and donations by both 'viewers like you' and corporate gifts and support from Trusts and not-for-profit groups. Corporate sponsors are acknowledged by announcements which are qualitatively not advertisements. PBS also hold fund-raising 'telethons' and sell special products and donated goods and services in fund-raising on-air 'events'. This can be a bit tacky but what it does do is give the individual viewers as well as larger entities a convenient way to help support a service they see as being of special value.

    Could not the World Service sell BBC caps for $20 or T-shirts for $ 50 as a way to give listeners the opportunity to donate to support your work? Could you not set up a text-donation system like those which were created to accumulate donations for the Indian Ocean Tsunami and the Haiti Earthquake? This would let listeners text a message which would automatically transfer a given amount to the World Service. What a confirmation of the underlying value of the World Service it would be 50 millions of listeners were able to send a simple text message and donate $1.- each!

    For that matter cant I just send you a donation?
    To go one step further, is it not the case that I can send money to the BBC Trust with a specific instruction that it be used to underwrite the work of the World Service and they would be legally bound to both accept the donation and to abide by my expressed wish? They are, after all, a Trust.
    In this case, could not ANY World Service listener on the globe do the same?

  • Comment number 2.

    Listening to your broadcast an hour ago about the poor reception in Berlin due to shutting down FM service, inspired me to get out of bed and write to you on the subject of funding the BBC world service. Like many people have commented, “I can’t live without the world service”, I am willing to contribute financially to maintaining the service in full. Apart from the informative and interesting content, I rely on putting it on when I wake up at night. Also when I am in Barbados where I am at the moment, though I normally live in the UK, I listen to it through out the day as well. In many countries there is virtual no talk radio and the music channels do not cut it for me.

    I am a UK license fee payer but would be willing to pay the equivalent of another license fee dedicated to the provision of the world service. I understand that the way it is structured at the moment any payment to the BBC would go into the general pot, however, I am sure that it is not beyond the wit of the legislators to add one sentence to the legislation stating that any donations received for the use of the world service only can be dedicated to this purpose. I understand that this would have to be on a voluntary basis. I suggest that listeners could be invited to indicate whether and how much they would be willing to pay for the world service. Then judging from the response you receive, you would get an idea whether or not it would be worth your while going down this road.

    Whatever, you do please no advertising. No only would it spoil the BBC Brand, it is very irritating and all the other channels to that. Another reason that I don’t listen to them.

  • Comment number 3.

    Casual followers of shortwave broadcasting here in America are surprised to discover that BBC transmission in our direction has been curtailed. It is simply assumed that the World Service is still out there providing a global news source.

    Whether advertising is an appropriate funding source is an interesting question. Our local public stations have on-air fund raising drives; perhaps that model could be made to work for the World Service.

    Two current events may bring the situation to the attention of a wider potential audience. First, the new film "The King's Speech" is in and of itself a powerful advertisement for the BBC World Service. As the distribution of this excellent and engaging film expands, many will be reminded of the power of international radio service.

    Second, the recent disruption of the local FM broadcast of the BBC in Ivory Coast will bring further notice of what has been lost by the reduction in shortwave service. Reliance on local re-broadcasting or the Internet has obvious shortcomings that may become more evident in time.

    One might consider adding a "become a member" option to the BBC World Service web site, similar to what is found prominently posted on American public radio station sites. This can be an effective fund raising method, but of course it only works if the potential supporters can actually listen to the station!

  • Comment number 4.

    The World Service is valued around the world for its objectivity and for many it is the only source of the truth.

    It should be cherrised and funded. But who should pay for it?

    The answer is simple. "If it is free, it is just that, worthless". This is an expression that I learnt whilst working in London when I should have learnt it in Yorkshire.

    If you value the World Service, if it has some telelogical value to you, then you should pay for it.

    It would be better for you if you knew that your leader was drinking a £100 bottle of congnac a night from a source that was not funded by Brits. And the Brits would prefer that you got your information from a trustworthy source and not from an enterprise that may be tainted by its colonial past.

    Global satellite broadband would give you access to 100 news sites. You might get access to a treasure we call "world 4", objective knowledge. And then, and only then, can you understand and discuss the world and choose the way forward.

  • Comment number 5.

    The past 20 years I listened to the worldservice on 648 mediumwave.
    EVERY DAY. In the shed , in the shower , in the garden and in bed , so everywhere.. with a battery radio. I simply cannot miss it.
    Please let me pay ! Dont go with advertisements. Stay on mediumwave !
    Does the BBC Worldservice know how many devoted listeners they have on the 648 ?? I doubt it somehow .
    We are very many. & Most of us do want to contribute financially ,
    I am positive about that.
    You just never asked ! (not me anyway)
    I would sign a year contract , even if others do not.

    (For me mobile phone listening is not an option, by the way.)

    Holland , Germany and Belgium really need the worldservice on 648.
    Why ? Holland really has a terrible dumbing down media, Germany is just too serious and inward looking, and Belgium .. can't even cope with its own newses.

    I just cannot believe the Worldservice would make this terrible mistake.
    There must be other ways to cut costs. Please stay !


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