The new BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten says the World Service is safer in the hands of the BBC than it was in the hands of the Foreign Office.
Patten – who spent 10 years as the Governor of Hong Kong – has told staff the World Service is a 'hugely important part of what the country offers to the world'.
During an interview broadcast to BBC buildings around the country where staff got the chance to put questions to the new Chairman, Mr Patten said he had 'probably more than any other previous chairman, reason to be grateful to World Service', following his time working abroad. He added that part of his job is to explain to licence fee payers why their money should support the service now it's part of the BBC's core budget rather than funded directly by central Government. He added that he wasn't optimistic about reversing planned cuts, but said Director General Mark Thompson and the BBC executive are aware of his views on the service.
BBC staff magazine [link=http://www.bbc.co.uk/ariel/13272030]Ariel[/link] reports on Lord Patten's chat with Newsnight's Martha Kearney, with the incoming chairman calling the Beeb 'the greatest broadcasting organisation in the world' and saying the BBC exemplified national life, as shown by its comprehensive coverage of last Friday's Royal Wedding. He revealed he is a Radio 4 listener, calling it the best radio service in the world 'for people like me'.
Patten was also asked whether the BBC could meet its savings target without cutting output. He replied that it would be demanding and said the focus on maintaining and raising quality 'may impact on programmes'.
"I don't think the BBC can avoid some difficult choices," he added. "But I hope it can avoid cutting whole services – I hope. If the BBC is going to live within this settlement we delude ourselves if we think it can do so without making some difficult choices."