The BBC’s financial woes are no secret. The cuts to local radio, the end of the old BBC News Channel and the changes to Newsnight are the direct result of the falling value of the licence fee.
It is hard for supporters of the BBC not to worry about a death by a thousand cuts if this continues.
But what about the axing of A Question of Sport?
The news that the long-running show was no longer in production emerged on Friday evening and made the front pages of some tabloids.
On first inspection, it may have seemed weird to link this story with the BBC’s financial situation.
Quiz shows and panel games are amongst the cheapest and most cost-effective types of TV to produce.
If the BBC simply cannot afford A Question of Sport, then it truly is a basket case.
But it would be too simple to dismiss this explanation as spin from the press office – a cover for the fact that the revamp of the programme under Paddy McGuinness proved to be a turkey.
The truth is that with the pressure on funding, commissioners are under pressure to spend very wisely.
An automatic recommission for a long-running programme which is no longer doing the business is not a given.
Resources have to be allocated to the programmes which are winning audiences or plaudits.
The BBC’s funding difficulties have been well covered by the quality press, broadcasters and trade websites.
But by linking the axing of AQoS to money, the urgency of the situation was brought home to tabloid readers.
Resting AQoS gained massive coverage compared to local radio and Newsnight cuts.
The actual words used by the BBC were careful – they simply described, correctly, the situation facing commissioners. Issues like inflation in the industry and prioritising commissions that do well on iPlayer.
But the impression was clear – if the BBC does not get more cash soon, more horrible choices will follow.
Think back to the mid-80s and the BBC’s campaign for a rise in the licence fee.
The decision to abandon afternoon television probably didn’t save much – the schedule mostly consisted of films, imports and repeats.
But the humiliation of seeing endless hours of Ceefax on the corporation’s flagship channel highlighted the grim financial reality.
Creatively it is the right decision to rest A Question of Sport.
Personally I hope it will return in a year or two in something more like its old format – a game based on sporting knowledge, with a presenter in the traditions of David Vine, David Coleman and Sue Barker and not a half-baked comedy show.
But let’s hope the explanation for the underlying factors which led to the decision to rest it will help the public understand that you get what you pay for.