BBC Trust OKs Draconian Cost Cuts, Also Website Ads

18 October 2007

LONDON: Sandwiched between the devil and the deep blue sea, the BBC's governing body - the BBC Trust - agreed Wednesday to a draconian six-year programme of cost cuts devised by director general Mark Thompson and his executive team.

Given the restrictions on licence fee increases over the next six years, imposed by the former Blair administration, the BBC trustees were faced with a stark choice: cuts or insolvency.

Among the more dramatic solutions to its financial woes, the BBC is to sell its massive White City TV administration and studios site in west London.

And as expected, there will be substantial staff cuts. Equating to around 2,000 fulltime jobs. The culmination of which will be a 10% reduction in programming by 2013.

Predictably the broadcast unions are up in arms, seeing their members as scapegoats in a battle that settles political scores between a vengeful government and the BBC's management.

There has also been widespread criticism of the latter's profligacy with public money

According to leaders of broadcasting union BECTU and the National Union of Journalists, which between them claim to represent about 60% of BBC staff, there is "a very strong likelihood of strike action".

The main brunt of the cuts is expected to be borne by the news and current affairs services, along with the factual programming departments.

And since the BBC Trust - wholly comprised of political appointees - is not known for a collective sense of irony, it is presumably sincere in its statement: "Our aim is to improve the BBC's accountability to licence fee payers and assure everyone that quality is not being affected in the drive for savings."

Although it has yet to be confirmed, the Trust is thought to have agreed proposals that BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm, can carry advertising on the website, which is available only to web users outside the UK.

Further details of the six-year plan will be announced today.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff