NUJ Press Release: NUJ condemns cut in BBC licence fee

The NUJ has condemned the below-inflation rise in the BBC licence fee announced by the government today (18) and is due to meet with Director General Mark Thompson to discuss how to minimise its detrimental effects on staffing levels and the quality of its journalism and programmes.

As feared, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has announced that the BBC licence fee will increase by 3% in the next two years, by 2% in the following three years, and by up to 2% in year six (2012-13), in effect vastly reducing the Corporation’s resources over the next six years.

NUJ National Broadcasting Organiser Paul McLaughlin said: “A sad day for broadcasting in the UK. The BBC is the cornerstone of a media system that remains the envy of the world. The simple fact is that quality costs and the licence fee represents tremendous value. A Sky subscription can cost as much as £50 or £60 per month, an alternative out of reach and undesired by many.

“Today’s settlement could lead to an emasculated BBC, those of us who care about the democratic function of strong, independent broadcasting will do all we can to prevent this from happening. Many people rely on the excellence provided by the BBC, free at point of delivery. The Government today could have demonstrated its commitment to the values underpinning the BBC, instead it has let the nation down. This settlement will reduce the capacity of the BBC to lead the way into the digital future,

“Given the additional demands that the government is making on the BBC, with the cost of the switch to digital and the move to Salford, the BBC needs a steady hand. They should not over-react as in the past, but need to carefully consider the options; The NUJ remains committed to working through the issues in the interests, not only of our members, but also the country at large.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear added: “Today’s announcement represents a colossal mistake by the government with potentially devastating consequences for quality content. We remain committed to protecting and promoting quality programming and journalistic excellence.
“The BBC must think very carefully before making any changes to the structure or staffing of the organisation. High quality programmes must be the priority and these cannot be produced without maintaining appropriate levels of highly-skilled staff and properly funded departments.

The NUJ has called a meeting of all M/FoCs at its London headquarters on Tuesday 30 January so that union officials can discuss the latest developments and what they mean for the corporation.

At the meeting, the union will also be discussing what action to take over the News Division’s decision to go ahead with selection for compulsory redundancies under Value for Money proposals, despite opposition and alternative proposals from the joint unions.

For further information :
or Paul McLaughlin on +44 780 305 0865 or Jeremy Dear on +44 7855 384 287.