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Feedback: Lord Patten on DQF and the cuts

Friday 7 October 2011, 17:20

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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BBC Television Centre

BBC Television Centre in 1960

If in 10 years time, you take the Central Line to White City in West London you will still see the iconic BBC TV Centre, after all it is a listed building, but no-one from the BBC will be in it.

After over half a century's service it is to be sold, along with the BBC's other buildings there a few hundred yards up Wood Lane.

Just about every BBC producer in London will by then be based in the newly refurbished Broadcasting House, just north of Oxford Circus in W1, or in the case of programmes like You and Yours, almost 200 miles north in Salford.

This was announced on Thursday 6 October by the BBC's Director General, Mark Thompson as he and the Chair of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, laid out the results of Delivering Quality First (DQF) which also has to deliver a 20 per cent cut in the Corporation's spending.

While saying that "We can't do this again", and that the Trust had been "merciless" in its scrutiny of his plans, the Director General seemed on good terms with his boss and glad that at long last he could spell out the plans even though they will result in about 2,000 job losses, which he said he regretted but which were "unavoidable".

Those cuts will be implemented immediately, but the proposals for cuts in programme content will be the subject of public consultation.

You can see the detailed proposals on the BBC Trust's website, but here is a quick summary as they affect radio output:

  • Radio 1's "content spend" will go down by 2.5%
  • Radio 2 by 2.9%
  • Radio 3 by 4%
  • Radio 4 will have no such cost savings imposed upon it
  • Radio 5 Live however is planned to have a cut of 7.5%

There are further cuts in local radio, in the output of the stations serving the nations and in the BBC Asian Network.

In addition to the proposed cuts to Radio 3 an inquiry is taking place into the BBC orchestras, which must fear that at least one of them will be chopped.

Long Wave is doomed and Medium Wave is on borrowed time.

Shortly after the announcements I talked to the BBC chairman, Lord Patten, to try to discover how real the consultation will be.

Next week on Feedback I will be talking to the BBC's director of Audio and Music, Tim Davie, about the proposed cuts, so do let me know what you think of them, and the proposed consultation.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

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    Comment number 1.

    On 16th March Caroline Thomson, the BBC's COO said "The BBC Trust will consult the public before any final decisions are made" so I would like to know why the Formula 1 rights deal was announced prior to the consultation. The proposed reduction in sports rights spend is clearly part of 'Delivering Quality First' and subject to consultation, and the F1 deal is only happening in order to reduce sports-rights spend. Saying anything else is simply not credible. Indeed F1 rights sharing is even mentioned in the BBC Trust's document as an example of reducing spend and it even states how the F1 rights deal will allow other services to be maintained! It is an absolutely central part of the proposals.

    The BBC Executive must provide an explanation as to why viewers were denied a say on a key part of the proposals - contrary to previous public statements. Saying we did the deal 'because we could' and that 'individual Sports rights decisions are not a matter for the BBC Trust' simply wont do and show enormous disrespect for the public's intelligence.

    Failure to explain would give a very strong impression that the BBC deliberately denied viewers a say on a key plank of the proposals.

    It is reasonable to assume that had the F1 deal been announced at the same time as all the other DQF proposals, a large proportion of the 6000+ viewers that complained would've had their say in the consultation instead. The BBC Trust may then have concluded that viewers value the BBC's sports portfolio more than other areas and asked the executive to recast their proposals.

    I and others would like an explanation and redress. Redress could take the form of renegotiating the deal and a public apology - A public apology for failing to uphold the high standards of public business that the BBC holds other too. Just imagine the amount of BBC News coverage had the Govt. implemented part of a policy that was still subject to public consultation.

 
 

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