Great expectations 

18 December 2006 tbs.pm/198

Jowell: BBC Salford move ‘expected’

Tessa Jowell’s comments relating to the BBC’s proposed move of key departments to Salford seem to imply that the move will definitely go ahead, but these statements can easily be interpreted to mean different things to different people. Saying that the move should happen is fundamentally different from saying that it will happen.

Apparently Tessa Jowell is in favour of a licence fee settlement greater than inflation in order to cover the costs of both the digital switchover and the Salford move, but crucially both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are strongly in favour of a lower licence fee settlement since the Treasury has to pay the licence fee for a growing number of pensioners.

In which case it’s very plausible that her comments could also be interpreted as a last ditch attempt to force Blair and Brown into a greater licence fee settlement compared to what they wanted; the final settlement still hasn’t been agreed yet and this figure won’t now be revealed until early next year.

Plus the digital switchover cost has now been fixed and the Government knows the projected cost of the Salford move, therefore both sums of money on top of the costs to keep the BBC producing high quality programming – with a maximum budget set in stone by the BBC Trust as part of each channel’s service licence – will have to come from somewhere.

Another possible scenario could involve the BBC being forced to sell off further parts of its operation to the private sector (which has happened before) in order to raise additional revenue, but there isn’t a great deal left that can be judged as being non-critical. The only previously unthinkable alternative may be for the BBC to sell off one or more TV or radio channels.

Media Guardian seems fairly convinced that the cost of the Salford move will be ringfenced, but my guess is that only the digital switchover costs will be truly ringfenced with the Salford move being made conditional upon further undisclosed savings and asset disposals. Or alternatively the move could be delayed until after 2012 or even cancelled.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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