BBC Radio Arabic and Persian to be axed and hundreds of jobs lost in 'tough' cutbacks

BBC Radio Arabic and Persian to be axed and hundreds of jobs lost in 'tough' cutbacks
The BBC announced plans to axe BBC Radio Arabic and Persian amid 'tough' cutbacks following the government's ongoing license fee freeze, high inflation, and the corporation's move to digital platforms.
3 min read
29 September, 2022
The decision is a part of a cost-cutting programme and a move to digital platforms [Getty]

The BBC announced on Thursday that they plan to axe BBC Radio Arabic and Persian – alongside other services – meaning nearly 400 members of staff at the broadcaster’s World Service output will lose their jobs.

The move - which will put 382 people out of work - is a part of a cost-cutting programme and a move to digitalise platforms.

The BBC said it has been "led to tough choices" following the government’s ongoing license fee freeze and high inflation.

The broadcaster stated its international services - which operate in 41 languages around the world - need to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of the wider £500m ($548.9m) "of annual savings and reinvestment to make the BBC digital-led".

Despite the cuts, the BBC vowed to continue "linear TV broadcasting for both Arabic and Persian languages", while stating they would invest in "building audio and other digital capability in Arabic and Persian to replace radio".

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They also promised to stand by audiences in moments of need, while emphasising a "compelling case" to expand its digital services, highlighting "the way audiences are accessing news and content is changing".

"The World Service will continue to serve audiences during moments of jeopardy and will ensure audiences in countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Afghanistan have access to vital news services," the BBC stated.

The move will see radio services in Arabic, Persian, Kyrgyz, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil and Urdu come to an end if the plan is approved by staff and unions. 

Language services the broadcaster is proposing to move to digital only – joining 11 other language services - are Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu, and Yoruba.

The head of the broadcasting union Bectu, Philippa Childs, said they were disappointed at the proposed changes, according to AFP.

"While we recognise the BBC must adapt to meet the challenges of a changing media landscape, once again it is workers who are hit by the government's poorly judged political decisions," she said.

Childs also stated that the government's freezing of the licence fee - which pays for BBC World Service - had created the funding squeeze and the need for cuts and that Bectu will mitigate "the needs for any compulsory redundancies", AFP reported.

The government announced a freeze on the licence fee in January, which was seen by critics as an attempt to save the then-prime minister Boris Johnson's job.

The announcement of axing BBC Radio Arabia and Farsi has been met with anger by many political commentators who see it as a vital public service and providing reliable and accountable information to people living in countries where information is often strictly controlled.