NUJ rally for the BBC World Service
I spoke tonight to over a hundred people crammed into a Commons Committee Room at the NUJ Parliamentary Rally against cuts to the BBC World Service. Former World Service Director John Tusa, former Gaza hostage Alan Johnson and NUJ Deputy General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet were among the other speakers and veteran broadcaster Austin Mitchell MP chaired. Here’s what I said…
A few years ago, Nepal faced a coup d’etat which closed down the internet, local papers and civil society meetings. We smuggled Laxman Basnet, the leader of the Nepalese trade union movement, to London, where he could speak to his members and the Nepalese people. The Nepal short wave service will close this month.
Mansour Osanloo, who leads the bus workers union in Tehran, is in jail for his beliefs, for building a union which called on employers to provide better wages, proper work clothes and childcare facilities. The BBC Persian service regularly broadcasts in Farsi the truth about him and about the protests we run around the world so that he, his family and the workers of Iran know that they are not alone.
Quality journalism is a vital contribution to democracy and as TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has said: “the BBC World Service’s foreign language broadcasting is a crucial contribution to excellence in broadcasting, it improves people’s lives and at the same time acts as an ambassador for the UK. The BBC World Service speaks truth not just to power, but also to the people.”
The TUC, of course, supports the NUJ’s campaign because it is an example of solidarity with workers facing job losses and cuts – something all too many people face at the moment. But it is about more than that. The BBC World Service provides a lifeline for people living under dictatorship or in ignorance.
It provides the most expensive commodity – the tuth – and all it costs is money! Britain and the people of the world will be the losers if we don’t Save Our Service.