BBC: Freeze on licence fee is an 'act of cultural vandalism'

The Government's decision to freeze the BBC licence fee for six years and cut the corporation's budget by 16 per cent is an "act of cultural and political vandalism", the former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said last night.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yesterday told the House of Commons that the BBC must make cuts, "similar to the savings made by government departments". In addition to the licence-fee freeze, the BBC will have to find £340m a year for a series of new funding commitments, including paying for the World Service, supporting the Welsh language television channel S4C and contributing to the roll out of internet broadband in rural areas.

Mr Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist, said his former colleagues were devastated by the scale of the cuts. "There's a sense of total despair at the BBC. Of course BBC professionals will always try to do the best they can in the circumstances. But when they see a government that clearly has an agenda against the BBC, not being stood up to by BBC management, that's not conducive to those people's commitment and dedication. People said before that morale at the BBC was lower than it has ever been. It's going to be non-existent after this." Although he said he was not making a personal criticism of the BBC director general Mark Thompson, he said that the corporation's management had "caved in" to political pressure. "They should have fought much harder," he said.

"The BBC is not a public organisation and cutting the licence fee has no impact whatsoever in reducing the deficit. The Government is pursuing the agenda of the BBC's competitors and enemies, and it's time the BBC started to stand up to this sort of treatment," said Mr Bradshaw.

In an attempt to defend their handling of the situation, the BBC's two most senior figures, Mr Thompson and the chairman of the BBC Trust Sir Michael Lyons, issued statements yesterday claiming that the settlement offered the organisation a stable future. Mr Thompson said: "This is a realistic deal in exceptional circumstances securing a strong independent BBC for the next six years."

In a blog published yesterday, Michael Crick, the political editor of BBC2's Newsnight, wrote that Mr Thompson had been "summoned back" from the train he was taking to his home in Oxford in order to attend late-night negotiations at the Department of Culture, Media & Sport.

The BBC agreed to take on the funding of the World Service, having been alarmed that it might be saddled with the greater £556m-a-year cost of funding free licence fee provision for the over-75s. The BBC's bargaining position in the frantic final hours of talks this week was not strengthened by the fact that Sir Michael has already signalled his intention to leave next year.

Yesterday he said: "This is a tough settlement, but it's also a settlement that delivers certainty and stability for the BBC and licence-fee payers." He said he was heartened that the BBC's new responsibility for the World Service – previously funded by the Foreign Office – would ensure the vibrancy and independence of that network.

But Mr Bradshaw said the arrangement, "puts a huge question mark over the future of the World Service". "Why should the UK licence-fee payers fund programmes that they cannot even see or hear in this country? That poses a very worrying question," he said.

The shadow Culture Secretary also rejected the suggestion that the BBC would be able to protect programming while absorbing the cuts from its £3.6bn budget, the size of which has been criticised by some commercial rivals.

"Cuts of this magnitude are going to devastating for the quality of BBC programmes and their impact on our wider creative industries which are more dependent than ever on the original content that the BBC produces and supports," said Mr Bradshaw.

"This is an act of cultural and political vandalism by the Conservatives. It's time that the BBC started to make the case for itself and remind people what good value it is."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee