Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Exit strategy

All a bit twitchy at Broadcasting House, as Auntie heads for DQFexit, to abuse a phrase of our time. Delivering Quality First, Mark Thompson's lasting legacy of cuts, got a reasonably clean bill of health from the National Audit Office in terms of delivery in its first two years of five.  But what my chums call "circumstances" are making the final legs increasingly difficult.

At the time of the NAO report, DQF initiatives had reduced spend by £350m each financial year. But the target for 2016/7 is to step that up to £700m p.a. of sustainable savings. Overall, the plan was to make 85% through "productivity". In the early years, targets in this area were missed, particularly in television; more money than expected was spent on "implementation" (often code for redundancy costs). Worldwide didn't bring enough money to the table. All that required bigger than planned changes to what's called "scope" - or you and I would call cuts to programmes. The F1 rights to live coverage, so entertainingly won for Auntie by Dominic Coles and Boy Racer Roger Mosey, were re-shared with Sky to save money.  Red Button activity was pulled back. Fewer programmes were bought in. BBC3 savings are now virtually baked into the plans.

In the NAO report, the BBC's forecast of licence fee funding available for core public services in 2016/7 excluding obligations added under the 2010 settlement is the lowest for five years - at £2,923m. We're not privy to the latest forecasts, but have warned before of a 2016/7 hole. "Scope" is very much in the air again.

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