Licence deal puts BBC quality at risk

BECTU has condemned the government for setting a six-year formula for the BBC licence fee that will fall below inflation.

The union fears that an effective cut in real income until 2012 will lead to a deterioration in the quality of public service broadcasting in the UK.

Under the terms of a formula announced today, January 18, the BBC is also obliged to find year-on-year savings of 3% from 2008 onwards, and will have to make do with an overdraft limit of only £225m, instead of the £400m it had sought.

“There is nothing left to cut after 3,000 jobs have already gone”

Assistant General Secretary Gerry Morrissey stated: "The new Charter given to the BBC by the government requires the BBC to maintain quality programming, extend digital capabilities and help vulnerable households (these are households on job-seekers allowance and other low incomes).

"Research has shown this could include up to 20% of households in the UK", he continued. "It is unreasonable for the BBC to pick up these costs as well as maintain a high level of programme-making with a below inflation settlement.

He added: "We are concerned that the BBC will look at slashing jobs - although there is nothing left to cut after 3,000 jobs have already gone under the corporation's Value For Money scheme.

"Current staff are already working much longer hours and any attempt by the BBC to reduce jobs, sell-off or outsource bits of the organisation will be resisted by the unions with whatever action is required."

During the licence fee debate, the BBC committed to moving Sport and Children's television departments to Salford. The cost of this is estimated to be in the region of £300-400m.

Supervisory Official Luke Crawley said "This settlement is bad for the licence fee payers. By refusing to properly fund the BBC whilst obliging it to help with government policies such as the digital switchover and moving production facilities to Salford, the government is ensuring worse programmes and more repeats."

The BBC joint unions of BECTU, NUJ and Amicus have requested an urgent meeting with Mark Thompson, which they expect to take place within the next few weeks. Following this, they will consider the best course of action to take going forward.

18 January 2007