Corporation crunch 

1 December 2008 tbs.pm/983

BBC3 and BBC4 face budget cuts

At least the downturn in the commercial property market has prevented the BBC from taking the easy, short-term solution of selling the family silver and has instead focused more attention onto the corporation’s services; of which there is still much to be done judging from several recent events.

Both Crowngate and Sachsgate were at least exacerbated (if not directly caused) by deficiencies in the BBC’s PR department that had been caused by previous cutbacks, which just goes to show how something that looks superfluous on paper can have a deep impact within the corporation as a whole.

As mentioned before, it seems that the BBC had previously concentrated on cutting back on the things you don’t see (such as paid researchers) in deference to making changes to things that are obvious such as axing programmes and services; the risk of the BBC’s services declining in quality as a result starts to become all too real.

Personally I would merge BBC Three and the CBBC Channel – sending BBC Three (instead of Sport) to Salford – and perhaps replacing BBC Four with a proposal to make selected archive programming available on the iPlayer along with changing the remit of BBC Two slightly to accommodate what’s left over.

If the BBC doesn’t make radical and highly visible changes to its output, politicians and the public alike will start to question the validity of having a BBC that has spread itself too thinly. The aftermath of Sachsgate proves that the underlying issue is far more serious than isolated scandals and directly affects the integrity of the licence fee.

And a BBC Four full of repeats is the last thing that the BBC needs to justify itself to anyone.