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A BBC spokesman told The Telegraph: “One of the World Service’s key principles is to serve audiences in countries lacking media freedom.

We are considering if we can develop a viable news service for the people of North Korea, although there are significant barriers, such as the lack of internet access and the strict controls on what people are allowed to watch or listen to.” A number of foreign broadcasters already target North Korea, including South Korea’s KBS and the US-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

A BBC source told The Telegraph that plans for the service were still at an early stage, and that it could be several years before any service was up and running.

However, Lord Alton of Liverpool, who chairs Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, said: “This is a welcome step in the right direction.

While the start of a BBC North Korea service could compromise the embassy’s position, supporters of the plan point out that western ambassadors to Pyongyang get virtually no access to the regime’s inner circle anyway, and so there would be only a limited loss.

But pressure in Parliament and the Lords, combined with growing international concern at the extent of Pyongyang’s human rights abuses, is understood to have led to a recent change of heart at the BBC.The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said more than half of Hong Kong's media owners have roles in Chinese politics, meaning they are reluctant to upset Beijing.Mass protests against Chinese control of Hong Kong have been held nearly every year since the territory returned to China in 1997.It would most likely rely on shortwave radio as ordinary North Koreans are unable to access the internet or satellite television.Many buy cheap hand-held miniature radios smuggled in from China, which are easily hidden and can last for several months on one set of batteries. The BBC World Service has been cutting foreign language services in recent years due to ongoing budget reductions.

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