At a time when British politics are dominated overwhelmingly by foreign policy issues, it seems woefully misguided of the BBC to be planning to introduce seriously damaging changes to its sole news programme with an unashamed foreign policy agenda, The World Tonight on Radio 4. We are all former presenters of the programme and we are deeply concerned about the BBC’s proposal to have it produced and presented by the same team that will already have been responsible for the World Service programme Newshour, which serves an entirely different audience.
The World Tonight is broadcast directly after Newshour, which means inevitably that Radio 4 listeners will be served a programme with a largely reheated agenda created for foreign audiences. To reduce the programme’s UK coverage to a bare minimum would severely short-change the very listeners to whom it is meant to appeal, and seriously curtail the programme’s ability to cover late-breaking UK political stories. We urge the BBC to think again about its plans, to enable the programme to continue to serve licence fee payers with the in-depth coverage for which, over nearly 50 years, it has gained an enviable reputation.