BBC is locked in talks with the government over drastic cuts to the World Service budget which could force it to withdraw from Burma and several other countries. The Foreign Office, which funds the World Service through an annual GBP 272m grant, has told executives to prepare for a possible budget cut of 25 percent from April 2011 as part of the public sector cutbacks. The BBC service in Burma is one of those identified by the government as under threat, according to a diplomatic source. The World Service Russian presence, which reaches about 700,000 listeners and a further 1 million through its Russian-language website, may also be vulnerable to cuts, according to BBC insiders. BBC sources said talks with the government would continue for six weeks, however, and claim no final decisions have been made. The outcome of the consultation will be known on 20 October, when the chancellor, George Osborne, outlines the scale of the government cuts in the Treasury’s public spending review. Although best known for its radio broadcasts the World Service also runs websites and TV stations in 32 countries in dozens of languages. It has a global audience of 241 million across TV, online, radio and mobile phones. The World Service was criticised for pulling out of eight countries in eastern Europe three years ago to fund new services in the Middle East, including a new Persian TV service.