Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Double your money

Look, I am genuinely joyful at the arrival of new Government funding for the World Service - delighted if it secures the continued employment of existing journos, even happier at the potential employment of new staff here and around the world, and immensely cheered by the belated recognition that the BBC's deserved reputation for independent, fair-minded news coverage is an asset to the UK and its position in the world. (Would that Whittingdale felt the same...)

However, I continue to be amazed at the breathtaking arrogance of the Cameron/Osborne duopoly. £238.5m of FCO funding to WS dumped on licence-fee payers in April 2014; all funding for over-75 tv licences dumped on the BBC in years ahead; and now, a commitment to spend an additional £289m of taxpayers' money over the next five years, on additional, specified services to be delivered by the World Service.

Lord Hall wants a major opinion poll if there are any big changes to the BBC in years ahead, but is happy to cheer this financial entrechat with Government. Just because it is the right thing to do doesn't mean it has been done in the right way. And there's still a strand missing - is the BBC going to be able to match this £289m  - as promised in "British Bold Creative" ?

"We would aim for any increase in public funding for the World Service to be matched by external income for our other global news services over the Charter."

The BBC stresses it retains editorial control - but I wouldn't mind betting that the Government has been able to pick and choose from a longer, private wish list of expansion provided by Auntie. I rather hope that some of the first funding is used to restore an Editor of World Service News, so that, when something like events in Paris 11 days ago happens again, as it will, there's someone around to drive coverage, with staffing capable of providing it. Otherwise the reputation will fall away.

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