the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

16 December 2011

The BBC Trust’s consultation on the Delivering Quality First (DQF) proposals will close on Wednesday 21 December. We urge all BECTU members, their friends and families to respond to this consultation – and to promote a broad response from the public who will suffer as a result of the proposed cutbacks.

Gerry Morrissey writes:

BECTU has drafted detailed guidance on issues that individual members may wish to raise in response to this consultation.  

This is the last chance that the public will have to challenge the huge false economy of the DQF cuts.

'Cuts will destroy jobs, skills and capacity'

The public have not been properly informed of the damage that these cuts will do to our economy. The degree to which they will destroy jobs, skills and capacity in our creative industries has not been properly explained.

Recent BECTU/NUJ-sponsored research has highlighted the economic folly of these cuts. BBC investment in content provision provides a huge bonus for licence fee payers. All money spent results in a huge ‘multiplier’ effect for the wider economy. This research has shown that the economic multiplier effect of keeping additional licence fee money in the pockets of households is likely to be considerably less than the positive effect additional licence fee spending will have on them.

Quite literally, we are all better off simply because we invest £145 a year. By freezing the licence fee, the BBC can be expected to reduce the Gross Value Added it produces to a value of approximately £1.1 billion by the 2016/17 fiscal year.  

At the end of a year in which the depravity of some commercial news organisations has been highlighted as never before, this is not simply economic madness. It is also a threat to the quality of our democracy.

As we have seen with the failure of private sector investment to replace losses resulting from public sector cuts in the wider economy, there is no evidence that BBC cuts will result in more investment elsewhere. They will, instead, commence a race to the bottom in terms of quality and quantity.

The wider arts and entertainment world is already reeling from a perfect storm in which private and corporate arts funding is falling, local public sector investment is disappearing, commercial TV advertising revenues are plummeting and inexplicable get-outs are provided to BSkyB which deprive our industry of £millions every year.

These proposals show that the BBC is no longer in control of its own destiny. Many of the decisions are more indicative of an appeasement of hostile forces than they are of a principled strategic approach to the future of public service broadcasting (PSB). In particular, the cuts to BBC Birmingham simply defy business logic and the BBC's management have been unable to explain them properly.

The plans to scale back on the quality and risk-taking of BBC3 and BBC4 threaten to reduce the BBC to a worthy ‘PSB Ghetto’ broadcaster; the BBC's days playing a broad cohesive role in UK society and culture are numbered.

We urge all of our members to complete this consultation. We also urge politicians everywhere to look again at how more funding can be found to reduce this false economy. The BBC’s rivals in the media have always attempted to portray the licence fee as a tax. Cutting the BBC’s funding will do nothing to reduce the UK deficit. The reverse is true.

Alternative ways to raise funds

In recent months, BECTU has added its support to demands for the iniquitous ‘Retransmission Fee’ settlement to be revisited. UK PSBs – uniquely – pay BSkyB to carry the programmes that their own customers value the most. This would not be the case anywhere else in the world.

We have urged the government to think again about our standalone position within the EU towards levy-funding. We have also renewed demands that the EU’s rules on content investment should be applied fairly across all UK broadcasters.

Public service broadcasting is one of the UK’s most respected services and commands a worldwide reputation. With the exception of BSkyB’s owners, the proposed cuts of £700m by 2017 are in no-one’s interests.

The time to preserve the BBC’s unique status is running out rapidly. Next Wednesday's deadline (21 December) is an important marker for anyone hoping to resist this folly.

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Amended 19 December 08.30.