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Wed 22 Jun 2011 09:50 PM

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UK's BBC spares Arabic Service from spending cuts

Foreign Secretary William Hague says Britain has reversed decision after Arab Spring uprisings

UK's BBC spares Arabic Service from spending cuts
BBC logo, headquarters

Britain has reversed plans to cut investment in the BBC's Arabic Service in response to the Arab Spring uprisings in a number of countries, Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday.

The government-funded service provides radio, TV and online broadcasts to an estimated audience of more than 20 million people in the Middle East and North Africa regions.

"It is right that we should look at ways in which we can assist the BBC Arabic Service to continue their valuable work in the region," Hague said.

"So I have agreed that we will provide additional funding of 2.2 million pounds ($3.5 million) per annum to enable the World Service to maintain the current level of investment in the BBC Arabic Service," he added.

The World Service, which broadcasts BBC programmes globally in a variety of languages, is facing cuts of 16 percent in funding over the next three years as part of a government austerity drive to reduce debt.

The Foreign office (FCO) said it had begun disciplinary action against one of its staff after the headline "massive U-turn on BBC World Service funding" appeared on its website, detailing the change.

The Conservative-led government has recently diluted plans to overhaul the state health service and reversed proposals to cut prison sentences and so is sensitive to accusations of "U-turns" on policies.

"A web article with an incorrect and inappropriate title was up on the FCO website for 10 minutes this morning," the foreign office said in a statement.

"That title absolutely did not represent the views of the FCO. This error has now been corrected and disciplinary procedures have been launched."