The latest BBC cuts are the product of financial necessity. The aim is to concentrate diminished resources on the programmes and services which matter the most. As far as possible, the changes try to reflect or anticipate changing consumer behaviour.
No definitive dates were given for the major cuts.
But are the proposed cuts the last word? Or something of a negotiating position?
There can be a tendency in many organisations to announce cuts which go a little further than people are likely to accept.
Some of the proposals seem like no brainers. Radio 4 LW and 5 Live MW are historic legacies.
Some other proposals are probably acceptable. Radio 4 Extra has a lot of brilliant archive content but increasingly this seems better placed on demand on BBC Sounds.
BBC Four has increasingly become an archive channel so it stands to reason that, again, the iPlayer may be a better home for that content.
But other moves are more debatable. If BBC News and BBC World News are fully merged, steps will need to be taken to make sure UK viewers – i.e., licence payers – always come first.
References to “Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom” or “the British Prime Minister” would soon grate. And what about ensuring proper rolling coverage of important domestic stories of little International concern?
The decision to stop two English sub-opt bulletins could provoke debate too.
But if there is one proposal likely to be significantly changed, I would bet it will be the closure of CBBC as a linear channel.
Audiences for CBBC have been falling and children increasingly look to digital and on demand. That’s only part of the story though.
The thought of BBC services for children being confined to cyberspace may not go down well with many parents or indeed other adults. It could harm the corporation’s brand image.
It also is tantamount to signing a death warrant for other BBC channels in the long term.
I would bet on a compromise.
If the CBBC Channel goes might children’s output gain a regular, prominent slot on BBC Two? Or might CBeebies be reconfigured and rebranded as a “catch all” channel for all children aimed at different age groups at different times?
Sometimes the BBC needs to show programmes simply to be seen to be doing them. It needs to be seen to be making valued children’s content.
The reversal over the axing of the Red Button service shows nothing is inevitable.
Hopefully though it will prove possible to make the cuts with no compulsory redundancies.
It may be hard – but could staff be redeployed in other areas if they don’t want to leave? Compulsory redundancies would almost certainly lead to strikes.
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