With much wailing and gnashing of teeth the BBC announced today exactly how it intends to find the £670million a year savings by 2016/17. Everywhere it turns out. The earlier insistence from BBC Trust to BBC management that salami slicing would not be in the interests of licence fee payers has, well, been ignored frankly. Faced with disgruntled viewers losing their favourite shows/sports/channels or disgruntled unions losing their members, Auntie has chosen to take on the unions.
The morning news rang with warnings that the nation was waiting to hear which of their favourite programmes would be cut. I was actually stuck in a traffic jam wondering why the traffic bulletin was late – but I am sure there were
millions, thousands, hundreds, several people who were waiting to see which programmes were for the chop. Would the most popular drama (Downtown Abbey), or the most watched LE show (X Factor) or the BAFTA winning news programme (News At Ten) all disappear from our screens?… Oh no sorry they are all ITV programmes. Well we were certainly assured that some people were waiting to see if their favourite BBC shows were to escape the axe anyway.
I was amused to note that much of the analysis, on Radio Five at least, seemed to be on the cuts to the news budgets. Dire warnings (almost exclusively from senior ex-staffers) that the BBC’s reputation as the best news broadcaster in the world may be in jeopardy – that quality would fall - that journalism itself would suffer because of the cuts – came thick and fast.
Really? Did I not mention that it was the ITV’s News (on a shoe-string) At Ten that won this year’s Bafta for Best News Programme of the Year? OK I am being unfair – at the considerably more serious RTS Journalism Awards earlier in the year the Best News Programme award went to ..oh that went to ITV News At Ten too. Damn.. sorry – never mind…. I am certain that BBC won RTS Best News Channel of the Year… oh bugger Sky News won that (again – what is that 8 out of 10 times Sky has won it now?). Hmmm your were saying something about BBC news journalism?
OK OK I suppose we can forgive the BBC for somewhat overstating its own brilliance at news. And whilst we have established that it isn’t actually the best news provider – it is surely the most balanced. Hmmm… Not today it would seem. In the six hours of news I listened to Radio Five Live (and it did cover the BBC cuts quite a lot) I didn’t actually hear one interviewee agree with any of the proposed cuts or suggest that the cuts to news could be accommodated without loss of quality if only they would get off their lazy backsides. Maybe I just missed them – and I am reliably informed that at least by the time we got to 2230 or so, at least some dissenting voices were allowed onto the airwaves.
(And I haven’t heard a word anywhere on how much of a dent it has made into the £65m it paid out last year to just 274 members of its ‘talent’).
Next up is the fun of the “public consultation“. Now that is what I call entertainment - With some 800 news jobs being axed (about 15% of its eye-watering 5000 total), General secretary of the NUJ Michelle Stanistreet has already said that
Some good news for Rupert Murdoch at last!
PS: The BBC’s Director-General Mark Thompson will be a guest, taking calls about the cuts, on Victoria Derbyshire’s programme on Friday 7 October from 10am.