Entertainment & Arts

World Service 'advert plan' attacked by former director

Sir John Tusa
Image caption Sir John said the decision to allow adverts was "not a trivial matter"

Plans to run adverts on the BBC World Service have been attacked by one of its former managing directors.

The scheme to insert advertising into World Service English output on the Berlin FM frequency is "the worst of all possible worlds", Sir John Tusa told Radio 4's The World At One.

He said it would breach a "crucial" principle and "not raise much money".

The scheme follows a government request that the Service generates £3m from commercial activities by 2013/2014.

Advertisements will also be put on the World Service's Arabic, Russian and Spanish websites.

"You can't be a little bit commercial," said Sir John, who was head of the World Service from 1986 to 1993.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSir John Tusa: "This is the worst of all possible worlds"

"It's not a trivial matter or a trivial moment."

Jim Egan, acting director of global news at the BBC, accepted it was "a significant moment" but said the plan would provide "a significant contribution to the £3 million target".

He refuted Sir John's suggestion that it represented "the thin edge of the wedge" and would lead to advertising across the BBC.

The World Service started broadcasting in 1932 and has a worldwide weekly audience of 240 million across radio, television and online.

In 2010 the government reduced its annual £270m budget by 16% and said the Foreign Office would no longer fund it from 2014.

More on this story

Around the BBC