Armando Iannucci may have been taking the piss when he said, as a result of the cuts announced by director general Mark Thompson last week, the BBC would report news from 10 per cent less of the UK.
It's not true but it does make a serious point.
BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said they were 'safeguarding investment in areas in which the BBC's reputation as an outstanding public service broadcaster rests". And yet 2,500 jobs are to go – BBC News is to see about 500 posts close and the money going towards BBC journalism will fall by more than 10 per cent in real terms over the same period.
Programmes like Radio 4's Today will have their budgets cut. The programme once had 17 reporters. It now has less than half that number. Factual series such as Arena will be scaled back and Storyville will produce fewer episodes. News 24 will be forced to cut some of its original programmes. Some specialist reporter posts are to be axed.
BBC Nations and Regions will lose eight per cent of its staff including more than 400 in Scotland and Wales, among them the people who produce tailored news for local audiences.
The BBC's plans simply do not match up to their fine words. With fewer resources and staff but more media platforms, something has to give. If you pile more work on fewer people they can only meet their deadlines by cutting corners, leaving work undone or making themselves ill through overwork. The BBC insists it does not want the latter.
We all accept as a result of the Government's public spending squeeze, the BBC has to make cuts. It should sell unnecessary property and curb excessive salaries. But it should also axe the duplicated layers of management, executive bonuses, consultant's fees and concentrate on programme making and maintaining quality in news, current affairs and drama.
Of course the unions are fighting to save jobs and protect workers from attempts to worsen their terms and conditions – but we are as concerned about the impact on journalists' ability to deliver quality programmes.
The BBC has a privileged position. It has to earn the licence fee. It does so through delivering quality. If that ability is increasingly undermined so is the case for the licence fee itself.
That's why on 5 November – the NUJ's Stand Up for Journalism day – BBC workers will join those in newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and new media – staff and freelance – to make the case for greater investment in editorial content, for the resources to enable journalists to do their job and against cuts which undermine quality and compromise editorial standards. Be part of it – see www.standupforjournalism.org.uk.