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BBC caves in to government pressure

The great pillars at Bush House, Aldwych, London Staff at Bush House, home to the World Service, will meet with senior management on 21 October 2010. Pic: Jonathan Warren

20 October 2010

BECTU has accused the BBC of caving in to government pressure by accepting major cutbacks confirmed in today's (20 October) Comprehensive Spending Review.

Confirmation that the licence fee is to be frozen until 2017, linked to an agreement which will see the World Service and Welsh language channel, S4C, funded from the licence fee by 2014, opens up a period of increased anxiety for all the staff affected, said BECTU.

"We are also concerned that the BBC's relationship with government is altered by this agreement," said BECTU's Gerry Morrissey.

"Whatever senior managers may say, the BBC's independence from government is compromised both by the content of this agreement and by the manner in which the deal was secured," he concluded.

Increased costs, reduced income

BECTU believes that the headline cost to the BBC of the agreement will be some £550m bearing in mind the loss of revenue which comes with a standstill in the licence fee and the £340m costs of funding the World Service and S4C.

The BBC's deal with government also requires the BBC to fund BBC Monitoring in Caversham which, like the World Service, is currently directly funded by government.

In addition the BBC had agreed to redirect £150m allocated to digital switchover to the expansion of superfast broadband.

Clarity and stability, says BBC

BBC executives are taking steps to reassure staff that the announcements are good news for the organisation.

Inviting his staff to take part in a briefing tomorrow, 21 October, Peter Horrocks, head of the World Service, said:

"The transfer of World Service and Monitoring to the licence fee is part of a wider settlement for the BBC that gives the whole organisation clarity and stability in its funding for the next six years which is a better situation than that enjoyed by many private and public organisations.

"Of course, the BBC will need to make significant savings as this can't be done by efficiencies alone, especially given that funding will not increase in line with inflation."

BECTU officials will meet with BBC managers in the coming weeks and months to discuss the detail of today's announcements and their impact on services and staff.

The union will also be working to represent the interests of its members at S4C as the channel addresses the plan to transfer its operations to the BBC within four years.

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