Leading article: The crunch is still to come

Share

An announcement is not due until the new year, but word has got out that the Government is planning to award the BBC a below-inflation increase in the licence fee for the next year. This translates into a cut in real terms and breaks the traditional link between the licence fee and the rate of inflation. This has been widely interpreted as a blow for the corporation and a personal defeat for the Secretary of State for Culture, Tessa Jowell, who is said to have supported an above-inflation deal. In response, the broadcasting workers' union, Bectu, wasted no time in warning of job losses. And there were gloomy predictions of an increase in the number of repeats that will have to be shown in future as a result.

But the truth is that the BBC's funding request was always rather unrealistic, given the tighter Treasury spending round facing other public services next year. This was true even after the corporation reduced its demand for a settlement of 2.3 per cent above the inflation rate to 1.8 per cent. The director-general's negotiating tactics, such as threatening to call off the planned staff relocation to Salford and pleading for huge sums to finance the corporation's full transition to digital, probably did the BBC's case no favours either.

If it turns out as reported, the deal seems a sensible compromise. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, wanted to impose a far less generous settlement. We should remember that the corporation still receives £3bn a year through the licence fee. This remains a sum that the BBC's commercial rivals can only dream of. Moreover, it is clear that money does not guarantee quality in broadcasting. Stuffing the mouths of BBC producers with gold does not necessarily do a service to the public which must pay the licence fee.

It is also important to bear in mind that this is only an interim settlement. The time is approaching when a revolutionary overhaul of the corporation's finances and income will be necessary. The 2012 digital switchover, when the BBC will simply become one media provider among many, will expose complacency and waste in the corporation better than any internal cost-cutting review. Those of us who wish to see the BBC and its distinguished tradition of quality public-service broadcasting thrive in the new digital era should be aware that the real crunch is yet to come.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband  

Rochester by-election: A little respect goes a long way, Ed Miliband

John Rentoul
Among the ‘extreme’ ideas favoured by Neil Findlay is the re-nationalisation of Scottish railways  

Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

DJ Taylor
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin