Leveson: Hunt should tell truth about BBC deal
16 May 2012
Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, should come clean on the behind-closed-doors deal which led to 20 per cent cuts to the BBC, according to Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary. The cuts have now been rubber-stamped by the corporation's Trust.
Michelle Stanistreet said James Murdoch held discussions with the coalition government's culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, before and after the general election.
"The Murdochs have been shown to have had exceptional access to Hunt's office in furthering their commercial interests. The incoming director general must be allowed to rip up the deal and start again.
"Today, the cuts have been laid bare; more than 2,000 jobs will go. The cuts will cause irretrievable damage to news coverage, music, drama and the arts. They will severely reduce the BBC's ability to fulfil its public service obligations. The NUJ is calling for a renegotiation of the licence fee deal.
"We are also very concerned that the Asian Network is to have its staff reduced by half and be forced to move to London. The Asian network has been vital in nurturing talent in the Asian community.
"Why should the BBC be making cuts to its vital news service to pay £150 million a year for providing broadband and a further £25 million investment in a new local TV service that nobody wants? Licence-payers are now also expected to fund the World Service, Welsh service, S4C, and BBC Monitoring.
"When times are tough, the money should be used to protect creative content and quality news journalism.
"The NUJ would also like to take issue with Boris Johnston, London's mayor, who said of the incoming director general, 'We need a Tory, and no mucking around.' No, we need a BBC free from political interference and no mucking around."
Jeremy Hunt is due to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry at the end of the month.
Delivering Quality First
The BBC Trust's response to Delivering Quality First, the programme of cuts and reform to the BBC, has been to largely agree with, the outgoing director general, Mark Thompson. However, the trust did respond to lobbying by the NUJ and other organisations and called for a small reprieve in the cuts to local radio; reducing them from £15 million to £8 million.
There is also a reprieve for the news magazine programme, Inside Out; 19 rather than the planned 50 jobs will go and each region will keep its own programme. However, the BBC plans to go ahead with a new "Radio England" programme between 7pm and 10pm, with opt-outs for live sport and local news.
Children's programmes – including Blue Peter – will transfer to digital channels CBBC and CBeebies. BBC One will cut its minimum hours of arts and music from 45 to 40 hours and BBC Two's hours will be cut by a quarter, although there will be some transfer of arts and music to BBC Four. BBC Two will cut its minimum hours of first run factual programming from 520 to 375. Channels Three and Four will be expected to make cuts to "content spend" of more than 9 per cent. Radio1Xtra will end its commitment to the provision of 50 live music events a year. Radio 3 will cut the number of specially recorded performances from 500 to 400 and cut new drama productions from 35 to 25.
The mid-morning and 3pm news bulletins on BBC One will end and there will be a reduction in political conference coverage. The corporation has already announced that 140 jobs will go in BBC News.
In October 2010, the government and the BBC agreed that the licence fee should remain at £145.50 until the end of the current Charter in 2016-17 and that the BBC would fund a range of extra broadcasting-related activities including: the BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring; an expanded partnership with the Welsh language television service S4C; Support for new local television services; raising and extending the current ring-fenced sum in the licence fee for digital TV switchover from £133m a year to £150m a year to support broadband roll-out.
The BBC's plan is to make to make £700 million a year of savings by 2016-17, equivalent to around 20 per cent of the licence fee.