Thursday, 6 October 2011

BBC cost-saving measures announced

Thursday, 6 October 2011

As you may know, the television licence fee has been frozen at £145.50 per year until 2017, so the BBC has to make 20% cuts in order to save £670m by 2016/17 (including £30m efficiency savings per year). 4% of the savings will be reinvested in new programming. It's now been announced what these cuts will mean, in real terms:

  • BBC2's daytime schedule scrapped (replaced by news and repeats)
  • BBC1 will inherit BBC2's first-run daytime programming
  • BBC1 and BBC2 peak-time schedule protected
  • BBC1 budget cut by 3%
  • Fewer entertainment shows in general
  • Less money spent on sporting events because of a 15% budget cut
  • BBC3 and BBC4 to refocus on "supporting" BBC1 and BBC2
  • BBC3 moving to Salford
  • BBC4 drama reduced, comedy protected
  • BBC Asian Network budget cut by 34%
  • Various cuts to BBC radio stations, except Radio 4
  • Fewer foreign acquisitions, including films
  • All children's shows will be exclusive to CBBC/CBeebies after 2012
  • Radio 5 Live to share news bulletins with other stations
  • Senior management reductions
  • BBC Online's budget cut by 25%
  • Radio 3's lunchtime drama, live music and concerts to be axe
  • Radio 1 to share content with Radio 1 Xtra (simulcast between 2-4am, Mon-Fri)
  • Radio 2 reducing live music, peak-time show safeguarded, share bulletins with 6 Music
  • Radio Scotland focusing on speech output in daytime, music at nighttime, 10-20% reduction in comedy, drama and documentaries
  • Radio Wales prioritize peak-time, reduce off-peak features by 25%
  • BBC orchestras and singers under review (Proms protected)
  • Local BBC radio stations will focus on peak-time shows and syndicate programmes nationwide
  • The BBC will leave its west-London premises, including the world-famous Television Centre building
  • Overnight radio programming will be reduced
  • BBC HD will close, replaced by BBC2 HD
  • More funding for Panorama
  • Investment in kid's TV and news to rise, but coverage of major events and factual shows to fall
  • BBC News budget cut by £24m with less "non-news shows" and more off-peak repeats
  • BBC1's The Politics Show axed, replaced by weekend version of Daily Politics.
  • Inside Out regional affairs show will be shared across regions.
  • Repeats on BBC1 and Radio 4 to rise by 1%
  • Radio/TV factual production axed at BBC Birmingham, except for BBC1's Doctors and Radio 4's The Archers
  • 2,000 jobs lost overall
As you can tell, these cuts are deep and likely to change the BBC forever. You'll probably notice these changes, as most directly affect the end-product viewers enjoy, but thankfully most cuts target off-peak areas of the schedule and sports. But I'm particularly upset the BBC are leaving TV Center, as that building's been the face of the BBC since 1960 and contains so much history and memories for British people—like the mass tap dancing spectacle with Roy Castle around the iconic "doughnut" for Record Breakers. It's already a shame the Blue Peter Garden's been closed and "moved" to Salford as a rooftop installation.

The radio and daytime TV cuts I can live with, but a BBC with no foreign imports and less entertainment shows doesn't fill me with happiness. But BBC1 is set to benefit, as it becomes an even bigger focus of the BBC, and the corporation's promised to invest more in comedy/drama. I think we'll have a better idea what this has done to the quality and output of the BBC in a few years time, but it's definitely a concern.

Would you rather have seen the licence fee increase slowly ever year, as usual, now we're facing so many years of the Beeb belt-tightening?

Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC:

"It's my judgment that this is the last time the BBC will be able to make this level of savings without a substantial loss of services or quality or both.

This is a plan which puts quality and creativity first. It's a plan for a smaller BBC, but a BBC which uses its resources more effectively and collaboratively to deliver a full range of services to the public. The plan meets the savings target we agreed in last year's licence-fee settlement, but also identifies nearly £150m per year to invest in high quality output and in the platforms and services of the future."
Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust:

"The BBC is far from perfect but it is a great institution and, at its best, a great broadcaster. We have a tough and challenging new licence fee settlement, but it should still be possible to run an outstanding broadcaster on £3.5bn a year.

The Trust's view has been clear from the start of this process—the BBC must look to run itself as efficiently as possible before we consider cutting services. Over half of the savings announced today will come from changes to operations, but there will need to be some changes to services and we now need to test BBC management's proposals for this. We agree with the direction that the director general has taken, but we want to hear what the public think, as it is ultimately their BBC."