I frequently get emails in my work Inbox from senior executives in the BBC. These al the “all staff” messages – sometimes congratulating teams for their recent work, or more often explaining major changes and cuts at the organisation. So when I clicked on one from the DG Mark Thompson last week, I wasn’t expecting much.
Then I realised it was a personal reply to a note I’d sent to him before Christmas. In his festive message, the DG referred to the controversila Delivering Quality First proposals:
“most people think that (the proposals) are… well thought out.”
It wasn’t exactly what staff wanted to hear just before Christmas, so I questioned where this rather sweeping statement had come from, given the scale of oppositon to the cuts from many quarters. You might not be surprised to learn that my reply was a bit of a rant. So I was somewhat surprised when The Boss took the time to personally reply to me – minus a P45 – with a link to a little publicised research report on the very subject of DQF. The key conclusion was as follows:
The research found that participants felt the package of DQF proposals presented was broadly acceptable overall. This acceptance should not be interpreted as enthusiastic support (as most were not in favour of reductions to BBC content and services per se). However, they considered the proposals a reasonable response from the BBC given the licence fee settlement.
Admittedly, it’s a rather broad statement, and I would urge people to look at this in the wider context of the report, which covers many areas. But the phrase “broadly acceptable” coupled with [not] “enthusiastic support” demonstrates the huge dilemma which has been facing the BBC Trust in analysing the results of its recent consultation into DQF.
Thankfully, there are encouraging signs that the Trust has listened to the vocal opposition on plans to scale back Local Radio and regional current affairs. The Guardian and several others report that the Chairman, Lord Patten, with tell the BBC to go back to the drawing board on its proposals. We’ve previously had hints that this might be the case – but once again I’m keeping the champagne on ice for the time being.
If Local Radio retains its afternoon shows, and Inside Out keeps its distinctive regional remit, savings will still have to be found from elsewhere. Certainly within the English Regions, there’s no spare change down the back of the sofa, no profitable ISA due to mature and (as far as I know) no unclaimed lottery win.
That means the BBC having to look much wider to find the money it needs to save, as the daunting joint reponsibilities of running the World Service and S4C draw even closer. Perhaps its no coincidence that there are now reports of the Trust preparing some early work on Mark Thompson’s successor.
Given my new status as DG’s Best Mate, I wonder if the head hunters have my number?