BBC to cut 25% of online spend and focus on quality and distinctive content
There you have it Mark Thompson director general of the BBC has said that the corporation plans to cut 25% of spend online and close its digital radio stations 6 Music and the BBC Asian network.
This is going to make some in the commercial sector happy, the BBC’s digital operations are sprawling with much being spent on websites supporting its music and non core activities online.
So far online cuts will hit “teen services Switch and Blast” with Thompson telling BBC News that Channel 4 should lead the way with these audiences.
If you look at where the BBC has spent money it doesn’t take more than a cursory glance to work out that some of it has been liberally spent. This for instance is the description of BBC Switch: “Radio, TV and online shows for people who like funny, random, cool things and want to get involved..”. Wow, would love to have seen the brief for that one. Key word there? Random.
The BBC admits in its strategic review that much online spend has gone on “bespoke programme
websites”. For bespoke read expensive. It says in the future it will rely more on “automated
programme pages”. Some of this is basic. It is what organisations in the commercial sector have done for years as a matter of cost and efficiency. Instead the BBC has been spending tens of thousands on sprawling websites. BBC Blast is the same. These are clearly good cuts. They look like non core with cash that could be better spent elsewhere.
The reports says that in future in terms of online it will only create content for the web only where it fits one of the five content priorities and is high quality and distinctive: “for instance, an impartial news service free at the point of delivery or
a children’s website free of advertising and in an environment that parents can trust”.
Thompson has said that the BBC can’t do anything, although for sometime it has clearly been enabled to do so.
It is because of the way the BBC has spent this money on too many services that compete with the commercial sector, overpaid talent and with its generous executive pay structure that it is now arrived at a place where the director general is forced to make some grand gestures like axing the excellent BBC 6 Music and the BBC Asian Network.
Thompson has “pledged that in the future 90p of every licence fee £1 will be spent on programming”. That’s good news. I hope the BBC also addresses its flabby and well paid executive structure as well. The justification for which is always that it needs to pay these people such vast amounts (with 27 earning more than the Prime Minister) because they would join the commercial sector. Really? Who else would pay Alan Yentob, the the BBC’s creative director, £183,300 a year and allow him to claim thousands in expenses (£1,773 on taxis in four months alone). Form an orderly queue. No pushing.
People like Yentob will no doubt keep their jobs while people who product content will lose theirs. Don’t get me wrong I do love the BBC and do not want to see it cut down to size. It’s news is the best, its documentaries are outstanding and it has produced some excellent television drama at all levels. The ongoing success of ‘Eastenders’ and shows like ‘Larkrise to Candleford’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Spooks’ and Survivors’ are a testament to that, but these changes on the surface do not seem to go far enough.
It is all very well cutting “teen services Switch and Blast” to allow Channel 4 more room, but what about getting serious and axing BBC Three? It produces such car crash TV as ‘Snog Marry Avoid’.It has no merit. It is utter tabloid trash. Channel 4 and ITV could easily produce this (should they wish) and again the commercial benefits. In its review the BBC points to shows like ‘Gavin and Stacey’ and ‘Being Human’ as testaments to its innovation. These programmes are BBC Two shoes and its defence of BBC Three is lame and a mistake.
But BBC Three appears ring fenced and safe and instead we lose more distinctive output like BBC 6 Music and BBC Asian Network. DJ Phill Jupitus describes axing of 6 Music as “an act of cultural vandalism”. He has a point.