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Lay off public service broadcasting, says the NUJ

16 December 2019

As the BBC itself and its staff are attacked from all sides the NUJ has warned government and politicians not to undermine public service broadcasting.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Flagrant bullying rhetoric has been targeted at the BBC and Channel 4 during this election campaign, with threats to their futures issued in response to editorial decisions. These have been amplified over the weekend with comments from the government about reviewing the funding of the BBC and decriminalisation of the licence fee.

“Let’s be clear – knee-jerk changes to the licence fee would massively damage BBC programmes and news. The corporation is already facing serious cuts in the coming year, with potentially more on the horizon. It needs greater resources, not an attempt to destabilise its  very existence.

“The NUJ salutes the hard work and professionalism of its members who covered one of the most divisive and difficult of election campaigns. Of course some mistakes are made in the midst of wall-to-wall, 24 hour multi-platform coverage – that is no need to descend into threats, mudslinging and some of the most vile trolling of BBC journalists and staff on social media networks.

“With accusations of bias and unfair coverage flying, it’s important to remember that Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, found 79 per cent of people rate the BBC’s news highly, with 73 per cent rating the BBC as trustworthy. That is why the BBC’s resources need to be protected – not attacked by ministers and politicians of all sides.

“The union has its battles with the BBC management, but more than ever we need to prevent the corporation being undermined and emasculated  at a time when well-resourced, fact-checked journalism is needed as a bulwark to the lies and disinformation too often found on social media platforms and networks.

“The NUJ will be seeking a meeting as soon as possible with the next Culture Secretary to raise our concerns and seek guarantees on the future of the BBC and protections for public service broadcasting.”

During the election campaign the Prime Minister appeared to be question the system of funding of the BBC. In an interview on BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 15 December, treasury minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that Boris Johnson had ordered a review of the sanction for non-payment of the £154.50 charge, which funds the corporation, a view reiterated  by a Number 10 spokesperson today.

The BBC said decriminalisation could cost it £200m a year. Licence fee income was worth £3.6bn to the BBC in 2018-9, accounting for approximately 75 per cent of the broadcaster's revenues and funding TV, radio and online content. Last year, 25.8 million households had TV licences.

Tags: , bbc, broadcasting, channel 4, public service broadcasting, election, boris johnson, tv licence, licence fee, trolls, bullying