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Author Topic:  Until the BBC stops doing covert deals with government, it is doomed.  (Read 2329 times)


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So this weekend I had intended to write a round-up post of all the goings on in the last couple of weeks and try to make sense of them.

How Helen Boaden - onetime Director of News before the now infamously spiked Newsnight exposure of Jimmy Savile - now Head of Radio announced plans to give away thousands of hours of BBC radio production to independent companies.  Wonder if many of them will be run by ex-BBC staff like Wirefree Productions, makers of the insomnia cure that is the Mark Forrest Show?

Or the announcement by Tony Hall that a thousand jobs are to go, those who watch these things closer than I have time to may point out that 1000 jobs is only going to save a third of the headline 150m figure, so the rest will be coming from elsewhere...  John Myers hits one of many nails on the head in his blog when he asks 'who will be doing the cutting?'  In the last few years we've never seen the turkeys in BBC management vote for Christmas, so why should this round of deck re-arrangement be any different.

Then there was the rumour that Ofcom were being lined up to take over some of the duties of the BBC Trust, a few days before  the announcement that the very same Trust was rubber stamping the BBC management decision to close BBC 3 and move it online.  Listen to BBC Trustee Richard Ayre on the Media Show as he tries to explain to Steve Hewlett why the Truss ignored their own research - that showed licence fee payers didn't want the shift of BBC3 to online - despite their reason for existing being to represent those very same people.

But how do you make sense of any of this when you wake up to find the BBC has, according to the Sunday Times been engaging in covert deals with the Government?

Here's the link to story, note, it's not behind the paywall Osborne hits BBC to pay welfare bill.

GEORGE OSBORNE has launched a 650m budget raid on the BBC to help cover Britain's benefits bill, forcing the corporation to meet the cost of free television licences for the over-75s.

Senior government sources say a deal is close that will force the BBC to take on the cost of the 4.5m licences - worth 145.50 each - from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The move is part of a package of 12bn of promised welfare cuts, at least 8bn of which will be unveiled in the budget on Wednesday.

In return, the BBC will be allowed to make up some of the lost revenue by charging for use of its iPlayer and other online catch-up services to try to stem the loss of revenue caused by people abandoning their televisions. That will return at least 150m to BBC coffers, but the 650m benefits bill represents the loss of around a fifth of the corporations 3.7bn licence fee income.

The details, including the timing of the change, are still under negotiation but it is likely to be phased in after 2017, when the number of over-75s claiming a free licence will have risen further.

Discussions about the free TV licences over the past week involving Osborne, BBC director-general Lord Hall and senior figures in the DWP and culture department mean a deal is expected before budget day. The plans were confirmed by four different sources in Whitehall familiar with the negotiations.

Under the move, the free television licence will remain in place until 2020, honouring a pledge in the Tory manifesto. But it will then be up to the BBC, which has prominently reported criticism of welfare cuts, whether to maintain the free licences or impose its own cut to pensioner perks to plough the money into programming. Senior BBC staff are concerned that such a deep cut in revenues will put services such as Radio 2 and the BBC news channel at risk. Hall wants a rise in the licence fee, which has been frozen for five years, to offset some of the costs, but that is unlikely and will be decided only as part of the process of renewing the BBC's charter.

Ministers believe the deal will put the BBC on a firmer financial footing by allowing it to charge people viewing BBC catch-up content online.

A government source said: 'This is not us hammering the BBC. It is a deal. The big win for them is this iPlayer fee. If you're watching BBC content, youre going to have to pay.'

'The truth is that the licence fee as it is currently structured means the BBC does not have a long-term guaranteed revenue stream, because in 10 years' time more and more people are going to be using catch-up services. They have been asking for this for a very long time.'

A second source said the BBC 'cant be immune' to the public spending cuts.

Hall announced 1,000 job losses last week because projected revenues have dropped by 150m as a growing number of people refuse to pay the licence fee because they watch only catch-up television online.

The deal has the strong backing of Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary. But the plan has caused irritation in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is already in tense negotiations with the BBC over whether to decriminalise those who refuse to pay the licence fee, which could cost the BBC a further 200m.

If you feel a little dizzy reading that don't be alarmed, it's just that's so full of government spin you can be forgiven.

However the question needs to be asked, what the hell is the BBC playing at?  The BBC and it's Trust did a deal 5 years ago, behind closed doors, it was wrong then and is wrong now.  It's our Public Service Broadcaster and is it not supposed to be free from political intervention?  What is this if it is not political intervention?  And why is the BBC seemingly complicit in this?  It happened not too long ago too..

Worth reminding ourselves here that 5 years ago, Jeremy Hunt, a man famous for hiding behind trees, allowed a member of his staff to leak results of similar covert discussions, as discovered during the Leveson Inquiry.

And with yet more cuts to add to their, ahem, Delivering Quality First initiative the result, things didn't exactly work out well did they?

And yet here they are, at it again.  Fair play to the Tory party, as evil geniuses go, they take some beating, they may largely be a bunch of swivel-eyed sociopaths but you have to take your hat to them, they are bloody good at it.

The BBC for it's part needs to get a grip, it needs to remember that it exists for every single person in this country, it doesn't exist to give middle-managers a salary for moving paper clips around a desk, it should not be capitulating to a government it should be holding to account.  If the government wishes to legislate against the BBC it should do it through the Commons and the Lords, not through the back door.  Sure the BBC is in a difficult position but all the time you're making covert deals, there's only one tune you'll be dancing to and it won't be one you'll hear on Strictly.

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