Aunty Beeb can’t budget …

We all know the cuts we’re making in order to survive. Our self-enforced austerity measures are carefully considered and we go without things we don’t need, cut back on excess and have one where we once thought two was essential.

My car sits in my drive undriven. I buy cheaper food, stocking up on frozen items at one pound a pop. Chaplin now has store brand rather than the posh stuff he loves. I don’t indulge in a BOGOF if it looks too good to be true. You get the idea …

The BBC, however, doesn’t seem to be as adept at intelligently and considerately cutting back like the rest of us – which is particularly annoying as we’re paying for that too.

Imagine being left alone to do the job you’re trained for

There are 2,000 jobs at threat in news – a section paid for by us licence payers which, one could argue, is as essential as anything David Attenborough has produced: a contentious suggestion, I know.

There is a widening gap between BBC staff and management wages – with the director general earning about £700k a year. Pay freezes mean journalists and others are taking the further burden of austerity measures. Pensions are being cut. The unpredictable work allowance is under threat.

BBC bosses want to save as much as £6m a year – but no one seems to be looking at the bosses,’ pay, the number of managers on the payroll, the perks bosses get or the bizarre jobs still being created.

A recent example of which is a “Transformation Engagement and Simplicity Project Lead”. One can only guess what one of those does. I would take the job just to be able to say it’s what I do when asked at a tedious dinner party. Who am I kidding? I would like to be able to go to a tedious dinner party but currently would have to arrive empty-handed and ask the host to pay my fare home.

No doubt a Transformation engagement and Simplicity Project Lead earns more than the £25,000 average reporters’ pay.

The BBC tells us: “Our programmes and services celebrate and reflect the diversity of England, and give localised perspectives to the big national stories and issues of the day.”

This, though, makes little sense when we know the decision had been taken to make cuts to Inside Out and local radio: Inside Out alone will lose 40 jobs and its overall budget  – reported to be £5m – cut by 40%.

BBC workers can always volunteer and help others

Aunty Beeb seems to have no sense of irony when wearing her corporate hat, boasting:

Quality and distinctiveness lie at the heart of the way in which we serve our local audiences. Across the country we’re driven by delivering high quality regional and local stories. Via a dynamic multimedia environment; TV, local radio and a range of dedicated local websites, we produce around 60% of the BBC’s domestic output for about 7% of the Licence Fee.

“Our regional TV service produces daily news in 12 regions of England, weekly current affairs and politics in 11 of them and sports shows in 7. We’re targeted with covering all of the big issues in each region and series such as Inside Out, have an enviable record of  breaking news.

“If you love your radio, then you can tune into any of over 40 Local Radio Stations and we typically attract over 7 million listeners per year. Our local radio service staged more than 140 constituency candidate debate programmes over the last General Election and our winter weather coverage is an example of our unique ability to support our communities.

So they’re cutting a service which they brag themselves is relied upon, appreciated, valued – and for a limited part of the licence fee.

The cuts to local radio specifically have been discussed in the House of Commons with such comments as, ” I remember times in my life when the BBC locally has provided a lifeline when we have been cut off or in crisis situations.”

John McDonnell MP says, “I urge the Government to think again about the licence fee settlement. The licence fee is frozen until 2017. Since 2004—we have criticised the previous Government for this—there have been 1,000 job cuts a year, with now another 2,000 on top.

“The BBC also faces the possibility of being burdened with the funding of regional television, which will mean another round of job cuts and service cuts in future years.”

The fight to defend jobs will continue because local news is essential to democracy and BBC journalists know this – unfortunately those managing the news seem to prioritise made-up jobs and saving their own skin.

Perhaps they could look elsewhere to make these cuts. I’m just saying, but these are the senior managers working in news alone at the BBC, not including deputies or assistants:

Helen Boaden, head of news
Noelle Britton, editor, programmes
Nigel Charters managing ed, BBC Newsroom
Richard Clark editor, radio newsroom
Richard Dawkins, controller, strategy of news
Mary Hockaday, head of BBC Newsroom
Peter Horrocks, director, global news
Tamara Howe, chief operating officer, news
Steve Mitchell, dep. head of news
Richard Porter, controller English Global News
Kate Riley, managing editor newsgathering
Fran Unsworth, Head of newsgathering
Jon Williams, world editor newsgathering

Big boss Helen Boaden thinks those concerned about cuts need to “grow up” telling staff, “we could’ve killed you off.”

So BBC journalists are now being balloted for strike action. We should support them and do anything we can to ensure those 2,000 journalists don’t end up in the same situation I’m in alongside many other unemployed hacks.

On the upside: After completing job applications today I can watch programmes I’ve recorded such as Top Boy and Origins of Us (I’m going romcom cold turkey)

On the downside: I might walk to sign on this week so that I can put the £3.40 bus fare towards a bottle of wine unless Chaplin refuses the leftover beef cat food then he’ll get my wine money. (Oh, and I’ve run out of biscuits)


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