Government pumps extra millions into BBC World Service for major expansion project

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The BBC World Service is to undertake its biggest expansion since the 1940s.

The broadcaster's worldwide offering will increase services across Africa and the Arab world in an enlargement that aims to reach places "where media freedom is under threat".

Using a funding boost of £289 million from the Government, the service will launch new services in 11 languages including Korean and Punjabi.

The expansion, which is particularly aimed at reaching young people and women, comes two months after MPs criticised the "undemanding" targets being set by the Government on the World Service.

A funding boost for the channel.
A funding boost for the channel (Lewis Whyld/PA)

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the broadcaster should be more stretched to increase its audience on the radio, on television and online.

Also included in the expansion is the launch of a full digital service in Thai and extended news bulletins to be produced in Russian.

Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, said: "This is a historic day for the BBC, as we announce the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s.

"The BBC World Service is a jewel in the crown - for the BBC and for Britain.

Baron Hall of Birkenhead.
aka Baron Hall of Birkenhead (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

"As we move towards our centenary, my vision is of a confident, outward-looking BBC which brings the best of our independent, impartial journalism and world-class entertainment to half a billion people around the world. Today is a key step towards that aim."

BBC World Service director, Francesca Unsworth, said: "Through war, revolution and global change, people around the world have relied on the World Service for independent, trusted, impartial news.

"As an independent broadcaster, we remain as relevant as ever in the 21st century, when in many places there is not more free expression, but less.

"Today's announcement is about transforming the World Service by investing for the future. We must follow our audience, who consume the news in changing ways; an increasing number of people are watching the World Service on TV, and many services are now digital-only."