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BBC News Reaches 250 Million People A Week

BBC News h

The Arab Spring helped the broadcaster's audience soar to an estimated record level in 2012.

LONDON -- The BBC's global news audience surpassed a quarter of a billion people in 2012, according to the public broadcaster's estimates.

The BBC said the number of people tuning in to its international news coverage grew 7 percent in the last year, with the corporation citing growth across its BBC World Service, BBC World News and its website.

A record 256 million people a week -- driven in part by the aftermath of the Arab Spring -- tuned in around the globe.

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According to the BBC's annual Global Audience Estimate (GAE) figures, more than 41.5 million people watch its Persian and Arabic-language World Service TV coverage -- up from 28.7 million in 2011-12.

The BBC also cited growth in Arabic-language audiences, with 6.5 million more people in Egypt watching in 2012 compared to 2011. BBC's Egypt audience had quadrupled during the uprising against Hosni Mubarak's government in that territory.

BBC director of global news Peter Horrocks said the tallies reflected a "milestone" for the broadcaster.

"I am also particularly proud that the BBC’s Persian service has thrived during the last year despite censorship, deliberate jamming of satellites and the continued harassment of BBC journalists and their families," said Horrocks.

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Horrocks noted that the figures also indicate an appetite for what he describes as "impartial, trustworthy journalism. This is an enormous achievement and cements our position as one of Britain's most successful and influential global brands."

The BBC World Service now has a weekly audience of 192 million, an increase of 11.8 million from 2011 to 2012.

The World Service's growth comes despite ongoing budget cuts imposed by the British government.

Two weeks ago, the foreign office announced a budget cut of $2.6 million (£1.7 million), on top of the $65 million (£42 million) of savings announced in 2010 ahead of the BBC's funding switch to the license fee next year.

"The BBC World Service is emerging from a difficult period of funding cuts and the closure of services," Horrocks said. "Today's record audience figures come despite this, thanks to the quality of our journalism and the decisions we have made to invest in new offers, such as TV programs in a number of our languages."

Across all of the BBC's global news products -- which include the World Service, the World News TV channel and the BBC News website -- its audience increased by 10.7 million compared to last year. The BBC's digital audience grew by 7.8 million, even as radio listeners dropped by about 300,000.