The BBC has warned of impending disruption to entire services and “major structural changes to how the BBC works” as it released details of £150m savings, including cuts to its website, news coverage and sports output.
Sources said that £12m cuts from the £201m annual budget of BBC Online would lead to the removal of features and magazine-style content from the website, which will focus on hard news coverage.
The cuts were part of a £150m savings package announced by Director General Tony Hall, including a £35m reduction in the sports rights budget. This will inevitably lead to major sporting events following the British Open golf tournament in being poached from the BBC by commercial rivals. The BBC said it anticipated “the loss of some existing rights and events”.
But senior BBC sources said the latest reductions were a mere “hors d’ouevre” compared to £550m cuts which will be announced in Spring. “These are likely to include broad service and major structural changes to how the BBC works and fulfils its mission to inform, educate, and entertain,” was the stark warning in a BBC statement.
BBC leaders are exasperated by the length of time being taken by Government to clarify the organisation’s future. Culture Secretary John Whittingdale warned recently that a White Paper on the subject might not be published until after May. “We just want to get on with managing the place without these endless debates about the future of the BBC,” said a source.
The latest £150m savings include a reduction of £5m in the budget of BBC news, traditionally the most sacrosanct part of the organisation’s output. Part of the brunt of the savings will fall on the BBC Monitoring service, which oversees and reports on mass media worldwide.
A reduction of £12m in the general television budget will mean that, although drama productions will be protected, “a range of other genres will face cuts”, the BBC said. “This will mean some reductions to factual, comedy and entertainment.” Savings made from the loss to ITV of the big entertainment show The Voice UK will be allocated to making “new, home-grown formats”, the corporation said.
More savings could be made by the BBC “exploring a phased exit” from its Red Button service, which originally launched as BBC Text in 1999 and was named Red Button in 2008. The service is still popular during coverage of major live events such as Wimbledon and the Glastonbury festival.
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