Government should fund BBC Monitoring, not the licence fee payer
29 October 2016
It was a mistake to end Government funding for BBC Monitoring in 2013 and that change should be reversed, say MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Foreign Affairs Committee says BBC Monitoring is vital to the FCO's scrutiny of developing events across the world. Highly valued by the Government, the service translates and analyses news and information from freely available media sources in 100 different languages and covering 150 countries.
Triggered by a shortfall of £4m in funding, the BBC now proposes an extensive restructure of the service, which would mean the closure of 40% of BBC Monitoring posts in the UK and 20% of posts abroad, and relocation of the service from Caversham to London.
The Government is the prime customer for the service. The Foreign Affairs Committee believes Government should restore funding for open source monitoring of media sources overseas, whether they pay BBC Monitoring or carry out the work themselves.
Chair of the Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, commented:
"BBC Monitoring is a highly regarded organisation whose work is more important than ever.
These cuts to BBC Monitoring, proposed by the BBC, are simply not in the interest of the UK Government. They will not help the FCO improve its performance in detecting trends and undercurrents overseas that have implications for UK policy – something it notably failed to do in Libya, for instance. Given the vast increase in social media output, this kind of monitoring is more important than ever.
Other countries with similar operations fund them from central Government. The principal benefit of the output of BBC Monitoring is better-informed Government policy, which is why the Government should fund it, not the licence fee payer. It's notable that in the face of these cuts, government departments are in the process of recreating this capability internally. This should not be necessary and we should be bolstering the work of BBC Monitoring, not cutting it."