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BBC World Service moved to a new home

The BBC World Service on Sunday made the first broadcast from its new London news centre, one of the world’s largest journalistic hubs, with a transmission by the Burmese section of the World Service.

The World Service, which has 225 million global listeners, marked its 80th anniversary last month and is moving into New Broadcasting House in central London to be with the rest of the BBC’s news operation.

The first transmission from the new building featured a live phone-in with listeners from Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma, and an interview with Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. “This is a real milestone for the Burmese service, and the whole World Service, and the whole of the BBC,” BBC Director General Mark Thompson told staff as he congratulated them after the broadcast.

The World Service is moving out of Bush House – its central London home for 70 years – as its lease has expired. The opening of the new building comes as the BBC and the World Service face severe funding cuts as the British government tries to tackle a record deficit.

The British government, which pays for World Service through its foreign ministry, slashed its £270 million ($431 million, 323 million euro) budget by 16 percent last year. From 2014 the World Service will be entirely taxpayer-funded, like the rest of the BBC, which is the world’s largest public service broadcaster.

The World Service has broadcast in 68 languages over its eight-decade history, but now has just 28 services, many of which are only accessible online. The BBC is moving all its domestic and international news services, with around 6,000 staff, into New Broadcasting House, which adjoins the original Broadcasting House site built in 1932. The new building will feature what the BBC says is the largest live newsroom in Europe. It will be the first time that all of its news services have been under the same roof since World War II.