BBC is the envy of the world – that’s why we must save it

by - 18th February 2013, 8.00 BST

NUJ StopTheCuts placard GlasgowBBC journalists are taking action – by striking and working to rule – to prevent compulsory redundancies and cuts which are putting quality programming under threat.

The NUJ is now battling to save jobs at BBC Scotland (pictured), Newsbeat, Five Live, at the Big Screens, Asian Network and the World Service which are due to go within months. The BBC intends to cut 2,000 jobs across the corporation.

The BBC is already under a cloud following the fall out of the Newsnight and Jimmy Savile debacle. The corporation will also be in the spotlight when Dinah Rose’s bullying and harassment review is published this spring. Meanwhile morale among BBC staff is at an all-time low as the so-called Delivering Quality First’s (DQF) job cutting exercise rolls out.

NUJ members across the BBC cannot believe why their management is failing to redeploy colleagues at risk – at the very same time as advertising job vacancies. It’s a monumental waste of talent and experience – and paying needless redundancies is a waste of public money.

This action could easily be avoided. This not just about self-interest – BBC journalists care deeply about the quality of programming and the corporation’s duty as a public service broadcaster. That is why so many are already working way beyond their contracted hours and are ‘acting up’ without financial reward, and why stress levels across the BBC are at an all-time high .

The DQF cuts will affect every section: news, TV, radio, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Asian Network has already had its staff cut by half and the World Service is also suffering further cuts.

Yet, the BBC seems to be able to find money to reward its top brass when they leave the BBC. According to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee,

Since November 2010, the BBC has made at least 10 severance payments to other former senior managers, each worth more than £250,000. The highest payment was £949,000 given to the BBC’s former deputy director general.The BBC’s former chief operating officer received a severance payment of £670,000. These payments do not include additional payments for legal fees and ‘outplacement’.

The annual licence fee has gone up by just £10 since 2007. It now costs just over £12 a month for all the TV, radio, website and live events the BBC covers. If current licence fee paying households contributed just over £2 more a month, these cuts to programming could be stopped.

The BBC is not just about providing high-quality TV and radio.  It provides cultural and educational enrichment.  Its orchestras, the Proms and its collaboration with the Open University are the envy of the world.

That is why we must make sure the public is on our side and understands that this action is all about saving a top quality, independent broadcasting organisation.

* Michelle Stanistreet is general secretary of the NUJ