NUJ response to the BBC White paper
© andy davey
12 May 2016
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: "The public response to the consultation on the future of the BBC was one of the largest ever, but the game was lost before it had even begun by the BBC agreeing to a deal with George Osborne to fund the licence fees of the over-75s – which could diminish the scale and scope of the BBC by 20 per cent. This is a disaster; since the 2007 charter there have already been £1.5bn cuts.
“We welcome another 11 years of the licence fee, but believe a five-year review is unnecessary and risks further political interference. Ministers should not be able to hold this threat over the BBC. The test the new unitary board must pass is one of independence. The high level of trust and respect the BBC receives across the globe is because of its independence from the state. The new board must ensure editorial independence is sacrosanct, represent the licence-fee payer and have at least one place for a member of staff.
“We support a charter which enshrines diversity measures to ensure the corporation reflects its audiences – both on and off screen. The NUJ will put pressure on the BBC to introduce policies to create this diversity.
“The BBC is the cornerstone of the UK's creative industry. Every £1 of the licence fee spent by the network generates £2 of economic activity, adding £8.3bnto the economy. The BBC and World Service are the best way to export British culture and values around the globe. After all the speculation and scare stories, don't be persuaded that this is a good deal for the BBC because ‘concessions’ have been made. I am deeply concerned whether the BBC will be able to continue the high-quality journalism and programme-making which allowed it to sweep the board at the recent Bafta awards.
"The NUJ also opposes the use of licence-fee payers' money to prop up local newspaper groups which have used profits to pay shareholders and executives fat bonuses instead of investing in journalism and enough journalists to cover courts and councils meetings. As for the planned consultation on a new contestable public service content fund – this is just another example of raiding the licence fee. The underspend from the last licence fee agreement should be reinvested and off-set the further cuts our public service broadcaster is about to endure.”
NUJ response to the deal between James Harding, BBC's head of news, and Ashley Highfield, chair of the News Media Association, for the BBC to pay £8m to fund 150 journalists to be employed by regional newspaper groups to provide a service covering local authorities and other democratic institutions.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: "The NUJ believes there is a democratic deficit in local news – the press is not covering the decisions of courts, councils and public bodies in a way which properly informs readers about their democratic institutions. But should it be the licence-fee payer who plugs this gap?
“Local newspaper groups have a proven track record of cutting staff, merging titles, closing local offices and overstretching the few workers left on the ground just to maintain their profits. What checks are there that these groups will not exploit this licence-fee subsidy in the same way? The deal has been done behind closed doors with no consultation and no transparency; none of the practical details are clear and it would be totally bizarre to have people ostensibly working to the same aims and standards, but employed locally, by different groups, and on different, no doubt low, pay and conditions."