The World Service Trust is to receive a £90m boost from the government, targeted at specific countries for cross platform projects “to help people cope during disasters and drive social change”.
The funding, which comes from the Department For International Development, is to be spread over a five year period and will go to 14 countries where conflict, poverty, poor education and restrictions to personal freedom prevent people from accessing information. It will also target countries at risk from natural disasters such as earthquakes, famine and drought.
The World Service Trust – the broadcaster’s charitable arm – will identify the countries, which are likely to include Pakistan, Burma and Occupied Palestinian Territories. It could include programmes such as local adaptations of Question Time, mobile phone health services and local radio networks.
International development minister Andrew Mitchell said: “The media could be one of our most powerful tools in reaching out to communities in the world’s toughest places. Whether it is radio, internet or direct to someone’s mobile phone, we want to give people knowledge and a voice.
“The Arab Spring showed how access to free and trustworthy information can have profound social consequences. We want to build on that.
“The BBC World Service Trust has already shown that media can drive poverty reduction and with this support, we will help improve millions of lives across the world.”
Broadcast reported back in March that the BBC’s World Service could receive DfID funding that would go some way to offsetting the £67m annual cuts made by the government. As expected the areas in which the money is spent will be rigidly controlled .
As a result, the BBC has given it a circumspect welcome. Although World Service Trust director Caroline Nursey said the grant “recognises the vital role we play”, a spokesman for the broadcaster itself talked the benefits down.
“There will be a modest indirect benefit to the World Service as some programmes funded through this grant will be heard on language services of the World Service, complementing its core programming,” he said.
The World Service Trust works with hundreds of different partners and broadcasters internationally, of which the World Service is one.