Britain’s iconic broadcaster, BBC, is facing what could be the biggest cuts in its 93-year history. This threat has emerged after the Chancellor (Finance Minister) George Osborne proposed BBC took responsibility for £600m-a-year cost of free television licences for the elderly.
Every household that owns a TV set in UK has to pay what’s known as the licence fee. This amount, currently fixed at 145.50 pounds, comes for negotiations with the government through Royal Charter Review every 10 year with the next charter scheduled for renewal in 2016`
The licence fee contributes to a significantly large chunk of BBC’s spending budget as the corporation’s all domestic programming on all platforms are advertisement-free. The only commercial arm of the BBC is the global facing BBC Worldwide, which also owns the BBC World News TV and BBC.com.
Now George Osborne is actively considering waiving off the licence fee for UK’s elderly population meaning that the BBC’s annual income will automatically be slashed by 600 pounds- almost a quarter of its annual budget. (see the graphic for BBC’s budget breakdown)
Post 2008 economic recession, which’s had profound effect on British population at large, BBC had to go through a series of periodic cuts leading to a significant reduction in its workforce and programming ambition.
Experts feel that the latest proposal by the government would force the BBC to shut its local radio stations and other entertainment related commitments thereby making hundreds of staff redundant.
The new economic reality had prompted the beeb to vacate its iconic building Bush House-home to the World Service for over 70 years- and sell the famous TV Centre in White City in central London few years ago.
Reacting to this proposal, Labour’s shadow Culture Secretary, Chris Bryant, told said the sudden loss of income would have a catastrophic impact on the corporation’s radio and television output.
He was quoted by the Independent newspaper as saying, “The cost is [nearly] a quarter of the BBC’s income. They would have to slash production budgets, get rid of channels and close down local radio. It would be a decapitation policy.”
Analysts say that the BBC has fallen victim to the conservative party’s politics. The current Culture and Media Secretary, John Whittingdale, is a known BBC critic and has been vocal about doing away with the licence fee culture. Others argue that this is as an attempt to attack the organisation’s editorial independence. For, relying on government money than having to depend on private players through advertisements has always been considered a safer option in preserving the corporation’s world-famous editorial freedom.