Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Posh muggers

When you've been kicked around the quad by members of the Bullingdon Club, there's no point going squealing to the Dean - he's got the blazer, too.

Lord Hall and Danny Cohen did the 'leadership' thing last night, saying, given the circumstances (the mugging started last Monday), the BBC has won the best possible outcome (the muggers didn't get everything).

Danny bumbled with Evan Davis on Newsnight, repeating his four points while counting them off on his fingers (coach required). Lord Hall put further spin in print in an email to staff:

"Far from being a cut, the way this financial settlement is shaped gives us, effectively, flat licence fee income across the first five years of the next Charter. If anything, I believe it will put the BBC slightly up. Crucially, it gives us room for investment in the first two years of that Charter. This will help us to manage the transition we all know is coming to an online world."

Sorry, Tony - it's a cut. When Mark Thompson got mugged in 2010, he told the Guardian "Britain will have a strong and independent BBC for the foreseeable future.... Indeed, the BBC's operational and editorial independence will actually grow as a result of the deal." Since then, spending on sports rights has been cut by 15%, original programming has been cut across all tv channels and radio networks; local radio isn't local in the evenings; the Red Button only comes out to play occasionally; and the Executive have banked the closure of BBC3 as a broadcast channel. Thommo said he would cut 2,000 jobs by 2017 - it's never quite clear where we are on this, but Lord Hall announced a further 1,000 jobs would go  last week. There's another file folder of output cuts in Lord Hall's briefcase for 2016/7, which he'll now reveal a suitable distance from the Budget.

The Charter runs out on December 31st 2016. The BBC has to demonstrate that it's balanced the books by then. A new licence can only start then. The Bank of England quarterly inflation report notes that the CPI stoods at 0.0% in March, and that inflation will gradually rise to 2% within two years. The CPI rose by 0.1% in the year to May. The next index will be published on 14th July.

The rate of licence fee evasion is growing. A bit like discussing a raise in speed limits leads to faster driving, talking about watching on catch-up only is making more do it. The BBC has some promise that this loophole will be closed by the Government through legislation next year. However, there's also the matter of the Perry report on de-criminalising non-payment of the licence; you can't imagine Fleet Street letting Cameron and Osborne ignore it.

The impact of picking up the cost of free licences for households with a 75-year-old on board starts in at £250m in 2018/19, then £450m in 2019/20, and full coverage, estimated at £750m, from 2020/21. In parallel, the amount of licence fee top-sliced to pay for broadband roll-out, currently £150m a year, falls to £80m in 2017/18 and then in steps to zero in 2020/21.

Wait till Wednesday, when George Osborne announces the year-on-year savings he expects from Government departments over this Parliament - which he has stated that the BBC will match - and then tell me it's not a cut.

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