BBC Faces Draconian Slimming Regime

16 October 2007

LONDON: In what is widely seen as a softening-up prior to an axe-wielding orgy, Sir Michael Lyons (pictured), former Blair administration fixer and now chairman of the BBC Trust, has warned that no part of the publicly-funded corporation will be excluded from the upcoming "search for greater value".

The BBC's sudden passion for 'value' stems from the government's refusal to sanction a substantial uplift in the compulsory licence fee levied on every TV-owning home in the UK.

There is speculation that thousands of jobs could be lost as BBC director general Mark Thompson seeks to compensate for the broadcaster's estimated £2 billion ($4.07bn; €2.87bn) budget shortfall.

Interviewed on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, Sir Michael told Marr that "the only way this budget is going to be balanced is by doing less".

But - presto! There will be "no reduction in quality".

Invited to explain how this amazing prestidigitation will be achieved, Lyons sought refuge in obfuscation: "The BBC needs to be more distinctive doing things that other people don't do, and also those things it does do, doing them in a distinctive way."

The trust will unveil the BBC's six-year plan tomorrow (Wednesday) and details will become public the following day.

But when bureaucrats resort to sporting analogies, it's time to prepare for the worst.

Referring to the England team's surprise arrival in the final of the Rugby World Cup, Sir Michael told Marr: "When times are looking hard, just concentrate on the core job and that will see you through."

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff