The Spending Review: Making It Clear

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Next week and running through with a second push in early October, the BBC will broadcast a season of programming and content across its TV, radio and online journalism output examining the impending cuts to public sector spending. This is set in the context that the Government will be making its major announcement on the Spending Review on October 20th. During the recent General Election campaign one of our main jobs at the BBC was to act as a trusted guide explaining an often very complex set of issues. The focus for all our editorial content around the Election was "Making it Clear". This was not just a title - it was a mission statement for the BBC's election campaign coverage. So, too, will it now be for our coverage in the run up to the Spending Review announcement.

During critical times such as now, for the United Kingdom, the BBC has an important role to play to clarify the issues for our audiences - to help them make sense of different ideas and points of view. The Spending Review is one of those times and our aim is to provide insightful, objective programmes and expert analysis to help people understand the context and the potential options. We'll look at where and at what level the cuts may be made and why they are happening now, ask what the key issues are, how the Government is dealing with them and what the implications of the cuts could be.

At the heart of next week's programming are twelve major regional television debates across the English regions being broadcast on BBC One on Thursday 9th September at 10.35 pm. The audience will include politicians, public sector workers, business leaders and members of the public. This is a good example of the unique ability of the BBC's regional and local services to connect with their audiences and engage them in a subject that is likely to have a direct effect on their lives. The debates will examine the potential impact of the spending review in their regions, exploring the decisions that local councils will be faced with and how those decisions might impact on jobs, services and local businesses. They will use as a starting point the results of a study commissioned by the BBC's English regions which brings together, for the first time, a range of different factors that determine how vulnerable a particular area is to economic impacts such as public sector cuts. The debates will be followed up on BBC Local Radio the following morning.

As well as the regional debates and survey next week, there will also be widespread coverage across the BBC's main network news programmes for the whole UK including a special focus through the forthcoming party conference season. Nick Robinson will be travelling around the country to find out what are the key issues on people's minds about the Spending Review. Newsnight will be offering its own special reportage and debate and in the following week the Today programme looks at the Spending Review issues through the lens of two constituencies in Sheffield.

Launching on Saturday we have a special website featuring the latest news on the Spending Review, Q&A's from our key correspondents and lots more rich content and analysis to sit alongside our radio and TV programmes. Click on www.bbc.co.uk/spendingreview. Moving into early October there will further debates broadcast in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and our specialist correspondents will look at the issues sector by sector. On the day that the Government announces full details of the cuts on October 20th Andrew Neil will present a programme dedicated to the Spending Review and there will be extended reports and analysis in our main news programmes.

This kind of comprehensive programming, providing real public service is what the BBC is here to do and we will continue to follow the story throughout the autumn. We hope it will help our audiences understand the full context of the Spending Review and what it may mean for them.

Mark Byford is Deputy Director General and Head of BBC Journalism

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