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BBC cuts: relief or outrage?

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20 October 2010

At the end of a day in which the BBC has seen 16% effectively chopped off its budget, the general response seems to be - curiously - one of relief as much as outrage.

Which is remarkable, given that the cuts have come as such a bolt out of the blue - few people realised that cuts to the corporation were even on the agenda until Monday night.

However, context is key. The scale of the cuts across all public services announced today is immense. A £3.45bn funded enterprise like the BBC could hardly stand remote and distant from such a sweeping national savings exercise.

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons summed up the BBC’s position in the corporation’s official response to the cuts. “These are pressing times for the nation as a whole, and we believe licence fee payers would expect us to see what contribution we can properly make.”

Many producers are breathing a sigh of relief that the BBC - which has been the subject of relentless political sniping since the coalition government came to power - has at least secured the licence fee for the next six years.

Of course, this is tempered by awareness that the licence fee freeze - plus the additional commitments to pay for the World Service, BBC Monitoring and to help fund S4C - will mean that the corporation will have to make some very difficult choices in the coming years.

The real concern - adeptly spelt out by the Bectu and NUJ unions - is that this will hit jobs, programme budgets and the quality of programmes themselves.

And there is disbelief at how the ‘back of a fag packet’ style negotiations were carried out by the coalition government over the funding of such an important institution as the BBC.

There’s an excellent behind the scenes account of how the dramatic negotiations over the rapid funding settlement played out on Dan Sabbagh’s Beehive City blog (http://bit.ly/dAh2Je).

And BBC historian Jean Seaton explains how the BBC has just managed to preserve the integrity of the licence fee in the face of a near constitutional assault by the coalition government (http://bit.ly/aKNDYo).

Also, here’s links to Televisual’s account of how the key events of the day played out:

Chancellor George Osborne announces the cuts to Parliament: http://bit.ly/96Gosp

The official announcement of the cuts: http://bit.ly/9bJfWb

The BBC’s response to the cuts: http://bit.ly/bOYNyz

Producer response to the BBC cuts: http://bit.ly/cNbRkk

Union response to the BBC cuts: http://bit.ly/cr0LdR

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