Union says cave-in will further weaken the BBC’s ability to survive as a public service broadcaster of worldwide repute

white-flagThe NUJ has criticised BBC bosses after they yesterday agreed to pay the licence fee for people over the age of 75.

BBC director general Tony Hall said the corporation would foot the £608m bill in return for the government tightening up licence rules, which presently excludes those watching catch-up services such as the iPlayer.

But the deal was condemned by the NUJ, whose general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “You couldn’t make it up. The last time a shabby deal was done behind closed doors, [culture secretary] John Whittingdale condemned the ‘short, private negotiation between the BBC and the government’ as not doing ‘much to inspire confidence in the independence, transparency or accountability of the process’.

“Yet here we are again. Despite repeated commitments made by Tony Hall to a process with full transparency, we find out through leaks and a forced statement to Parliament that the BBC leadership has caved in to government demands that will further weaken the BBC’s ability to survive as a public service broadcaster of worldwide repute.

“That staff and licence fee payers  found out about this done-deal in this way is a disgrace. NUJ members trusted that this time round there’d be a fight by the current leadership at the corporation to preserve the BBC’s independence and capacity to continue delivering quality journalism and programming.

“I’m sure those individuals running the BBC have kidded themselves into believing they’ve got the best deal possible, just like Mark Thompson no doubt did last time round. There will be many more millions of licence fee payers who roundly object to the principle of the BBC allowing itself to be annexed by the Department for Work and Pensions.”

 


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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