Index on Censorship editor Jo Glanville and Chief Executive John Kampfner have put their names to a letter in the Times today condemning the BBC’s decision to make cutbacks in the BBC Russian service.
The BBC claims to have legitimate reasons for cutting 19 hours of broadcasting a week. It’s true that more and more people get their information online, where the BBC is saying it will concentrate more Russian resources. But the BBC should be mindful that Internet access is still a luxury in large parts of the world, and, as importantly, it is very, very easy for a government to censor online content, or at least frustrate people’s efforts to find information.
Radio remains a massively important medium, and the BBC’s global reach provides a window to the world for millions. In an age when Russia is becoming increasingly suspicious of the world beyond its borders, the decision to deprive the Russian people of a global perspective is worrying to say the least.