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Esperanto Broadcasts

Volume 984: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if, in the light of the growing number of Esperantists, he will direct the Overseas Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation to broadcast in Esperanto.

No, Sir. The BBC external service broadcasts either in English, which it is the Government's policy to promote as an international language, or in the native languages of selected countries or regions.

While our desire to broadcast in our own language is understandable and laudable, will my hon. Friend recognise that many people will be disappointed by his answer? Is he aware that a growing number of countries, including China, as well as Radio Vatican, broadcast in Esperanto for the benefit of bringing people closer together.

Esperanto is the second language of all those who speak it and we think it better to broadcast in their first languages. The BBC broadcasts in 39 such languages.

As the BBC is renowned throughout the world as the most dependable and responsible broadcasting organisation—and it uses the services of the best people available—would it not help international understanding if, instead of chasing this obscure and unknown little fake language, the Government were to make available more money for BBC broadcasts in English throughout the world?

Such money as the Government make available to the BBC external services is better spent in broadcasting either in English or in the language of those living in the countries to which the BBC broadcasts.

In view of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's determination to flood the Soviet Union with propaganda, will my hon. Friend consider restarting the BBC's Ukrainian language broadcasts and bearing the cost of them on the defence budget rather than within propaganda expenditure?

We have increased broadcasts, to a small extent, to both Russia and Afghanistan and we are studying whether there is scope for further increases. As to whether the money would be better placed on the Vote of the Ministry of Defence, that is a matter which would not help the general total of money spent, whichever Vote it was put on.