Tuesday, 2 March 2010

On the proposed BBC cuts and #save6music - it's about priorities

News has been leaked that the BBC DG Mark Thompson has announced plans to make swinging cuts at the BBC. This is obviously controversial and the Paxman interview was wonderfully entertaining (watch again on iplayer).

Firstly Mark Thompson needs to get his priorities in order - he should offer to take a pay cut before he proposes cuts to services.

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However I have to think the DG is playing the political game that the plans to reduce BBC Online staffing by a quarter etc is designed to fit with the post-election landscape, and potentially highlight a key election battleground.

The outcry against these cuts to much-loved publically-funded services is essentially turning into a rallying point against the tories, and I think it is noticable that the report was written by the head of BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, but was initially leaked to shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey MP who has made a rapid U-turn in the face of the inevitable public reaction.

So although the proposals are being made in his name I don't think it is quite as clear whether he is personally in favour of them and this may actually be a bit of a stitch-up to change the state of the debate.

There have been a number of dry runs on various save the BBC campaigns even in the past year, and it is a touchstone which hits a similar nerve as those save the NHS slogans.

But while it's easy to get caught up in protecting our favorite bits of the corporation's service, it is worth agreeing with the principles of forcing Auntie to focus more sharply on her priorities - so although I'm a fan of 6music (particularly the recent performances of Danny Wallace during January) I'm very happy to see the reduction in children's TV content such as Blast and Switch - I mean, providing a niche for creative experimentation where it wouldn't otherwise exist is not the same as filling one that does and struggles to survive because of the strength of the competition.

So really I'm arguing for the BBC to stop expanding mainstream products and concentrate more heavily on providing authoratitive expertise such as it it does so well with its' news and current affairs team.

I'd personally like to see a BBC Europe channel, covering the work of the EU institutions, cultural events like the Eurovision Song Contest and things like the European space programme which all UK citizens contribute to but rarely get any direct feedback from, and as a linguist I'd value the ability to watch more foreign-language reports and shows from those countries I visit most often... though I'm definitely not planning to get on my soapbox to call for a return of El Dorado!

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