NUJ slams “emasculated” BBC over licence fee deal

The NUJ has condemned the government's BBC licence fee settlement of a seven per cent rise over six years and said it could threaten the quality of the corporation's journalism.

The union announced today that it will meet with BBC director general Mark Thompson to: "discuss how to minimise its detrimental effects on staffing levels and the quality of its journalism."

Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Tessa Jowell told the Commons this morning that the licence fee will rise three per cent in the next two years, by two per cent in the following three and by a further two per cent the year after that.

NUJ broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin called it a "sad day for broadcasting in the UK".

He said: "The BBC is the cornerstone of a media system that remains the envy of the world. The simple fact is that quality costs and the licence fee represents tremendous value. A Sky subscription can cost as much as £50 or £60 per month, an alternative out of reach and undesired by many."

He continued: "Today's settlement could lead to an emasculated BBC, those of us who care about the democratic function of strong, independent broadcasting will do all we can to prevent this from happening.

The NUJ has called a meeting of all its reps at its London headquarters on 30 January to discuss how the deal will affect the BBC's journalists.

Thompson expressed his "real disappointment" at the settlement but said he realised that no commercial rival enjoyed that certainty of funding.

He said: "The settlement announced today means the BBC still receives substantial, guaranteed income of more than £20billion over the next six years, which is financial security denied to any other media player.

"But it leaves a gap of around £2bn over the next six years between what we believed we needed to deliver our vision and what will actually be available. That's not a gap many organisations can swallow comfortably." Thompson said one way to bridge the funding gap was to "simply not make new investments".

The BBC had asked for around 5.6 per cent, 1.8 per cent above the retail price index.

Today's settlement is the equivalent of 1.5 per cent below the RPI inflation figure.

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