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4 January 2017
"We need to show we love the BBC. We need to fight to protect it; else we stand in danger of losing it."
That is what Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, told supporters at the Parliamentary launch of the Love it or Lose it campaign.
The project was set up to fight for a well-funded, well-managed corporation, accountable to its viewers, listeners and staff at a time when it is facing charter renewal and decisions on its future funding and the licence fee.
The campaign and the union's submissions and briefings on charter renewal were part of one of the UK's largest public consultations, with the vast majority of those taking part supporting the status quo at the BBC, seeing no need, as the government had threatened, to reduce its size and scope.
Now, the government has published its charter, which began on 1 January 2017. The BBC Trust is expected to end on the 2 April, but the campaign continues to:
- challenge the BBC's disastrous deal to pay for the free TV licences for over-75s, which could cost the corporation a fifth of its licence-fee revenue;
- oppose the BBC's plans to privatise its services by making BBC Studio a wholly-owned subsidiary company which will compete on the open market for commissions and end in-house production quotas;
- fight the outsourcing of 60 per cent of BBC Radio’s output;
- question why the BBC has agreed to spend £88m on a scheme that will fund local newspaper reporters.
Karen Bradley, Culture Secretary, announced the draft charter in September 2016. The NUJ supported the retention of the licence fee and an 11-year charter period, but opposed the plan for a review after five years. The NUJ also agreed the BBC needed to reflect more the whole of the United Kingdom in its coverage.
But the union is gravely concerned about the disastrous deal, brokered behind closed doors with the former chancellor, George Osborne, which puts the BBC’s director general in charge of a benefit previously administered by the Department of Work and Pensions.
This has resulted in a huge chunk of cash – £1.3bn over five years, then £750m each year – which will no longer be used to make the top-class programmes that 96 per cent of the UK population tune into every week. Instead, it will be used to pay the state benefit.
In return, the BBC was promised an inflation-linked licence fee rise, the closure of the iPlayer free broadcast loophole and an end to paying for broadband. But, as industry researcher, Enders Analysis, has pointed out, this will not offset the full cost of the welfare policy which, after BBC One, will be the single biggest item in the corporation’s budget.
Lord Birt, a former BBC director general, said during the BBC charter debate in the House of Lords that the cost of the two raids on the licence fee in the past decade had taken “almost exactly 25 per cent out of the real resources available to the BBC for its core services. A massive reduction in programming is therefore simply unavoidable”.
© Andy Davies
Earlier this year, current director general, Tony Hall, said:
“The overall result is that, by 2022, the BBC will need to make savings of £800m a year. That’s 23 per cent – and in some parts of the BBC, it will be more.”
The NUJ is now supporting an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, which would return the responsibility for the over-75s’ concession to the government and provide the BBC with the necessary funding to cover the cost of the benefit.
Please ask your MP to support the ammendment. NUJ briefing on the bill.
To put the over-75s deal into perspective, the £750m a year is:
- almost seven times the cost of all 39 BBC local radio stations in England (£115.1m.);
- more than eight times the budget for BBC Radio 4 (£90.2m);
- 15 times the cost of BBC4 (£48.7m);
- almost eight times the budget for CBBC and CBeebies combined (£97m).
(These are annual figures taken from the service licence agreements issued by the BBC Trust for 2016/17.)
Every £1 of licence fee spent by the network generates £2 of economic activity. In the period 2011/12, the BBC made £8.3bn for the UK economy. The licence fee is the single biggest investment in the arts and creative industries in this country. In 2013/14, the BBC injected £2.2bn into the creative industries. An international survey of 14 countries by consultancy Populus rated BBC One as the best of 66 major TV channels. The broadcaster is also Europe’s biggest provider of media and creative skills training.
The NUJ is also challenging the deal made between BBC News and the News Media Association, which will use £8m per year of licence fee payers' money to fund a scheme to provide reporters to local newspapers. Complete Cobblers! – NUJ reaction.
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Save BBC Radio
Too fast, too large, too extreme, too reckless. That was the view of Sir John Tusa of the BBC’s plans to outsource 60 per cent of BBC Radio by 2022. The former head of the World Service asked Bob Shennan, director of BBC Radio, who was sharing a platform with him at a packed committee room in Parliament, where the figure had been plucked from.
The Save BBC Radio event, chaired by Helen Goodman MP, chair of the NUJ’s Parliamentary Group, began with Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, who pointed out the perils of the BBC being thrust into the commercial world since the sale of Bake Off to Channel 4 – named the worst deal in television history. She told the meeting of the letter in the Sunday Times in late 2016, signed by a galaxy of radio experts and stars, including Joan Bakewell, Jarvis Cocker, Nikki Bedi, Misha Glenny, Kirsty Lang, Andrew Marr, Libby Purves, Tom Robinson and Julian Worricker, which said there was no demand for an extra 3,000 hours of output being put out to tender every year.
The NUJ is also opposing the outsourcing of BBC production to the wholly-owned subsidiary company, which the union sees as a step to outright privatisation and will lead to casualisation of the industry.
How you can help:
- Write to your MP, send him/her the NUJ's briefing paper. You can contact your MP via the Write to Them website.
- Put Save BBC Radio on your branch agenda (contact the NUJ campaigns office if you need a speaker), you can get your Save BBC Radio badges from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sign the Stop the privatisation of BBC Radio petition.
- The NUJ's BBC info sheet: BBC facts and stats;
- NUJ submission to the BBC Charter Review public consultation;
- The NUJ's response to the government's White Paper: A BBC for the future: a broadcaster of distinction;
- The Federation of Entertainment Unions' Alternative BBC White Paper;
- Love it or Lose it news stories;
- Other NUJ BBC briefings and submissions (2016)
- TUC report, Best of British: How the BBC powers the UK’s creative industries;
- How the deal was done Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian;
- Watch the #greatBBC's new film from Simon Curtis to find how some of Britain's best-known stars were influenced by the BBC.
Love it or Loose it campaign background