BBC to trim stations, budgets
Written by Chris Forrester
Sunday, 28 February 2010 08:09

Just about every UK newspaper is backed up with stories on how the BBC is about to make £600m-worth of savings. Radio stations are being axed, TV channels will see budgets trimmed and the Beeb’s award-winning web-services slashed. The BBC enjoys a £3.6bn budget.

The BBC’s influential 6-Music station, plus its Asian Network seem sure to be closed. The BBC Strategic Review delivers a number of options, and has already reportedly identified expensive cost-overruns on certain construction work for new studios and facilities including £100m spent on a refit of Broadcasting House, the BBC’s radio HQ and which is now running 4 years overdue. Reports say the BBC is resigned to working within its current budgets, and is assuming it will not gain any increase in its publicly-funded licence fees when the current arrangements end in 2013.

Widespread reports suggest that popular US imports (Mad Men, Damages, Heroes and The Wire are specifically named) will be cut with the saved cash being spent on improving the quality of home-grown drama and factual entertainment. 25% of the BBC’s budget for such overseas-sourced shows will be cut, say the rumours.

Sports acquisitions will also be trimmed, to about £300m. BBC-branded web-site activity (currently £112m) will also be cut by 25%, with a commensurate cutting of staff. Certain websites (BBC Switch and Blast!) will be closed.

The cuts are seen as coming in preparation for a possible change of government, with a new Conservative government already promising a tough look at BBC activity.

Moreover BBC Worldwide, the much-criticised commercial arm of the BBC, is also likely to be forced to divest itself of its UK enterprises, not least its controversial magazine division.

However, it isn’t all bad news. The budget alterations and savings should allow £600m to be redirected into new programming, suggest the rumours.