Saturday, June 13, 2015

Follow the money

In the poker game of Charter Renewal, you will read plenty of high falutin' words about "creativity" "universality" "investment in a digital future" etc. Skip through quickly.

The key player will be George Osborne. The Tory manifesto said "We will deliver a comprehensive review of the BBC Royal Charter, ensuring it delivers value for money for the licence fee payer, while maintaining a world class service and supporting our creative industries. That is why we froze the BBC licence fee and will keep it frozen, pending Charter renewal. And we will continue to ‘topslice’ the licence fee for digital infrastructure to support superfast broadband across the country."

The Tories will argue, supported by the BBC's commercial rivals, that, through the dreaded continuous improvement being demanded of all governmental and quasi-governmental departments, a frozen licence is all Auntie deserves. Top-slicing will continue, so that Osborne doesn't have to spend money from general taxation; de-criminalisation of the licence-fee evasion might save the Ministry of Justice some marginal costs, so will happen. Over ten years, Osborne will also be looking for a few windfalls from spectrum sales - so, even if new commercial uses may not be obvious now, there'll be question marks over AM and FM radio bands.

Can the BBC's James Purnell come up with a paper that argues convincingly for an increase ?  I'm not sure an early start to public shroud-waving is helpful in this area - it's already in full flow from luvvies, and Danny Cohen. And yesterday came an interesting piece from Neil Midgely in Broadcast about the threats to News.

Midgely's piece reminds us of the financial hole facing Auntie in 2016/7 (first mentioned in this blog in November last year).  And unfortunately, his conversations with those in news indicate the anxious divisions within James Harding's empire, with tv, radio and online each feeling they're going to get big cuts next year to preserve undeserving big beasts with historically high budgets. The News channel is feeling particularly unloved.

James Harding has spent time and airline tickets on The Future of News since August 2014. In the traditional cycle of events, July is News' favoured month for big headlines on job cuts. Let's hoped he has devised a cunning plan....

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