LONDON (Oct. 14)
A British Foreign Office spokesman denied in the House of Commons today that there were political reasons behind the Government’s decision to suspend the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Hebrew shortwave program which goes off the air Oct. 27. But Fred Mulley, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, conceded that the move represented a “change of policy.” He said the change was based on a survey that showed that more people in Israel listened to the BBC’s English broadcasts than to the Hebrew ones.
Mr. Mulley’s explanation was challenged by Sir Barnett Janner, Labor MP, who noted that in addition to Israelis, the Hebrew service had listeners among some 500,000 to 600,000 refugees in Arab countries who did not understand English very well but who still understood Hebrew. This observation by Sir Barnett hinted at the possibility of political pressure by the Arab Governments to halt the broadcasts.
Mr. Mulley insisted however that the reasons for the shutdown was purely economic. He said the Government considered that relations between Britain and Israel could be fostered more effectively if the money were spent on other activities. Among these he mentioned better premises for the British Council in Israel, the extension of English-language teaching there, and more professional and academic exchanges in both directions. In a written reply to a question by John Biggs Davidson, Conservative MP. Mr. Mulley said that about $36,600 a year would be made available by suspending the Hebrew broadcasts. He said part of this could be used to maintain a small staff at BBC to prepare Hebrew material for rebroadcast by the Israel radio.