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Guardian: Cuts will see World Service merged with BBC News, says Thompson

December 6th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Business, Editors' pick

The BBC plans to cut its online spending by a quarter and merge the World Service with BBC News in 2014 as part of cost cutting measures, director general Mark Thompson said in an interview with the Media Guardian.

According to a report by the Guardian, Thompson said he aims to save half a billion pounds a year “to ensure the public broadcaster can function within the terms of its recently agreed licence fee settlement”.

In an interview with Media Guardian, Thompson said he expects to make efficiency savings of £330m a year by slashing overheads – including cutting the cost of licence fee collection and targeting evaders of the £145.50 household levy.

The BBC will also cut a quarter from its online spending – currently running at £200m a year – and make unspecified but significant savings by merging the World Service with BBC News in 2014 because “however well-resourced the BBC is, we cannot afford to run two global news operations”.

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Details of BBC funding cuts leaked ahead of spending review

A formal announcement is expected to be made later today in George Osbourne’s comprehensive spending review outlining the changes the government has made to BBC funding. But details of the plans have already been widely reported: the BBC itself reports that the broadcaster is set to have its licence fee frozen for the next six years, will have to take on the cost of its World Service and fund the Welsh language channel S4C.

Last month Journalism.co.uk reported that the World Service, which is currently funded by the Foreign Office, was understood to be facing ‘significant cuts’ as part of the review.

News that the corporation would have to pay for the World Service was met with concern yesterday from the National Union of Journalists, which claimed Macedonian, Serbian, Vietnamese and Moldovan language services could close, or be “drastically cut” as a result.

The union also said it also fears job losses at the BBC World Service newsroom in London, the Turkish TV service, the Central Asian and Bengali services, the Spanish American service and the Arabic service. Job cuts could also impact on up to 350 jobs at the BBC Monitoring Service in Caversham, the union added. In a release from the NUJ, general secretary Jeremy Dear said:

The World Service is a vital source of quality journalism; people all over the world rely on the BBC to tell them the truth in times of crisis. If the Government slashes these essential services they will land a blow on objective news reporting and undermine Britain’s international reputation.

According to a report from the Telegraph the BBC has also “extracted a commitment from the BBC to spend less on its website”.

For more information on how news organisations will be covering the spending review today, see this post from Journalism.co.uk.

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BBC CoJo: In defence of Mark Thompson’s visit to Downing Street

September 6th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Politics

Last week several news outlets, including the BBC, reported on a visit to Downing Street by the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson, who was allegedly there to discuss BBC news coverage of the government’s spending review.

It was suggested that such a visit may risk damaging the impartiality of the broadcaster, with Thompson reportedly trying to ensure a good relationship with the government in light of a licence fee review on the horizon. Others indicated that the meeting was on the order of senior government figures who wanted to “quiz” Thompson on content.

Commenting on the press coverage, Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism criticizes what he regards as a promotion of appearance and impression over the facts in a post on the College of Journalism discussion blog.

Is it really a surprise for example, to learn that David Cameron’s press chief, Andy Coulson, had lunch with the BBC head of news, Helen Boaden, and that the subject of spending review coverage came up? Or that Mr Coulson would press for more ‘context’?

(…) Now, I have no special knowledge or insight here – but certainly when I was running Today or World at One it wasn’t that unusual to recruit senior executives to put in a good word when you were trying to fix big interviews.

And it’s easy to see that with a huge, high-profile season on the horizon – and the spending review season will run across all of the BBC’s national and regional programming as well as the news website – a bit of shoulder work from the chaps at the top is no bad thing.

See his full post here…

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BBC must remain editorially independent, says culture secretary

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the BBC must remain editorially independent to continue producing “world class news”.

Speaking in an interview with Andrew Marr yesterday, Hunt also indicated some change was needed to the licence fee:

We’ll be having discussions over the future of the licence fee, the next licence fee settlement next year, in which I’ll be talking to Mark and the BBC management in a lot of detail. And I do want the BBC to demonstrate that when it comes to their management pay, they’re on the same planet as everyone else because of the economic inheritance that we’re facing. Government ministers are having to be careful with every single penny of taxpayers’ money and the BBC does need to show that it’s careful with every penny of licence fee payers’ money as well.

But he added that the government support the idea of a similar stream of revenue continuing:

Well what we’ve said very clearly is that we accept the principle of the licence fee, which is the idea if you like of a household tax to fund public service broadcasting that is ring-fenced, and we think that one of the reasons we have some of the best TV and broadcasting in the world in this country is because we have these different streams of income including the licence fee, including subscription income and including advertising. Now the way we collect it may have to be rethought because technology is changing, a lot of people are watching TV on their PCs. We’re not going to introduce a PC licence fee and that is something that I do need to have discussions with the BBC to see what their ideas are.

Marr also asked Hunt for a response to the news that Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond had purchased Channel Five. Hunt said the news was “encouraging”:

Well what people need to remember about that is that the regulations over what broadcasters can do are much stricter than over people who run newspapers and magazines. And it was a Conservative government that founded Channel Five in 1997. Indeed Conservative governments have actually been responsible for most of the big changes in broadcasting. We founded ITV and Four and did the Sky and satellite and cable revolution as well. But what I think is encouraging is that one of the first things that Richard Desmond said was that he was committed to Five’s future as a public service broadcaster.

See the full programme here…

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FT.com: BBC has shared licence fee before, according to archives

July 20th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

The Financial Times has seen archive documents relating to the BBC that undermine the corporation’s ‘historical’ argument against recent proposals to top-slice the licence fee.

According to Ben Fenton’s report, “[F]rom the inception of the licence fee in 1928 until 1962, up to 12.5 per cent of the licence fee went straight to the Treasury as part of its general revenue.”

Full story at this link…

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Sir Michael Lyons on the BBC Trust, the licence fee and how it’s spent

May 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

Below a Wordle of last night’s speech from Sir Michael Lyons, chair of the BBC Trust, to the Royal Television Society, in which Lyons defended the Trust’s role as a guardian of the BBC licence fee:

“In my book, ‘guardianship of the public interest in the BBC’ includes seeing off opportunistic attempts to spend the licence fee on things that have nothing to do with the BBC’s public purposes. Any proposal to spend any of the licence fee has to be judged against the public value it delivers. That’s the acid test.

“Let’s not forget whose money we are talking about here. Not the government’s, not political parties’, not other regulators’ and ultimately not the BBC’s. It’s the public’s money. It’s licence-fee payers’ money. People would do well to remember that licence fee payers give us their money in good faith, believing it will be spent on BBC services and content.”

Wordle of Michael Lyons' speech on the BBC licence fee

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Observer: An internet licence fee could aid newspapers

April 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick, Newspapers

Peter Preston proposes an internet licence fee to aid ailing newspapers and the BBC – both of which face challenges in the multi-platform, free content world.

“Split the licence in two. Lump conventional TV and radio into one package that, until a few years ago, would have been the only package around. Then create a second fee package for cyberspace,” writes Preston.

Full article at this link…

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MediaGuardian: Lack of public support for BBC’s licence fee, suggest poll

August 18th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick

An Ipsos Mori poll conducted by MediaGuardian suggests that 37 per cent of the public do not feel the licence fee is an ‘appropriate’ funding structure and 47 per cent do not think it is ‘good value for money’.

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