Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The crisis at the BBC- toxic level of cuts

Over the weekend and the last few days there has been a huge campaign by the government and others in the media to smear the BBC and its record. The corporation which is apparently is in deep crisis with several high ranking resignations and several more stepping aside has lead to all sorts of speculation of its future as a journalistic establishment. Now I have my criticisms of the BBC like everyone but for the most part it is a solid organisation. It doesn’t cover workers movements or strikes very fairly but I don’t expect it too it represents the interests of big business and always supports the government of the day notably a capitalist agenda. But we are in danger of missing the bigger picture here which may well be the intention to deflect the attention from child sex abuse allegations in north Wales. All the frenzy of the BBC we have rather forgotten that there have been some serious allegations made here which must be looked into. The whole fury over the Newsnight report on Lord Mcalpine and was he or wasn’t he involved in child sex abuse is really not the point in my e yes. Someone or many people were involved and Phillip Schofield and his list on this morning along with Tom Watson in the commons have something which surely they wouldn’t risk their reputations on airing in public. The police cannot be trusted in all this either and have come off quite well so far but they to need to take some blame for covering up this awful incident/s and a reopening of the original investigation is a matter of urgency. The NUJ the journalist union have released a statement which I publish below setting out where they feel things have got to and the toxic mixture of big cuts, bad management and gross incompetency. The NUJ has called for an end to cuts at the BBC, saying the Newsnight crisis is a wake-up call to an assault on frontline journalism that has cost 9,000 jobs since 2004. General secretary Michelle Stanistreet says cuts are threatening the quality of journalism not only at flagship programmes such as Newsnight, which has had its budget slashed by 50% in real terms over the past five years, but in local radio and television as well as the World Service. She said: “With fewer journalists, many employed on a casual basis, it means there is no time for that extra telephone all, no time to double-check the facts, no time to reflect properly before a programme goes out. “The current re-grading proposals could see a situation where someone can be paid the minimum of £15,000 and end up in charge of a sensitive political report, or even output a whole programme and then get blamed when it goes wrong. “It’s testament to the great journalists working at the BBC that they manage, often through sheer goodwill and professional commitment, to get the job done despite staff shortages and dwindling resources. But the pressure this puts on journalists and journalism is undeniable.” Calling on BBC chair Lord Patten to take a long hard look at what has happened, Michelle Stanistreet urged him to take on a director general who would fight for quality journalism and stop the cuts. She said: “There must be a moratorium on these cuts. This should be a wake-up call to the BBC – they need to take the opportunity to halt the assault on frontline journalism and put in place measures to shore up news and current affairs before it is too late.” The NUJ believes the backdrop to the Newsnight crisis is the remorseless cost-cutting across the BBC that started in 2004. Since then 9,000 jobs have gone, including 140 in BBC news this year alone – the eighth consecutive year of cuts. Michelle Stanistreet said: “Mark Thompson’s decision, behind closed doors, to agree to a licence fee freeze until 2017 and to take on an extra £340 million in spending commitments, including the funding of the World Service, local TV and the rollout of fast broadband, was a disaster for the BBC. “This has been compounded by the way BBC senior executives have implemented the cuts. They have chosen to cut staffing and budgets in frontline journalism; news has been particularly badly hit. Rather than hack away at the fleshy layers of management, they have chosen to cut at the sharp end and inevitably that will make it harder for quality, thorough journalism to flourish.” * NUJ members at Newsnight have asked the NUJ to make clear they are appalled at what happened, and that the overwhelming majority of those who work there had no involvement with the story, and were not consulted about it before broadcast. They are determined to go on doing their jobs and to support the BBC management in its effort to go on delivering the Corporation’s world class journalism.

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