Journalists union has called on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to come clean on behind-closed-doors deal which led to 20% cuts to the BBC.

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The NUJ has called on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to come clean on a behind-closed-doors deal which has led to 20% cuts to the BBC.

(Pictured: NUJ strikers picket BBC studios in dispute over compulsory redundancies, July 2011)

During a lightning round of talks over two days in October 2010, the government and the Coporation’s director-general, Mark Thompson agreed a programme of savings worth £700m a year.

Unions believe the budget cuts would benefit the BBC’s rival broadcasters, including BSkyB.

Following revelations of Jeremy Hunt’s discussions with James Murdoch during the Leveson phone hacking inquiry, the NUJ says the BBC’s new boss – who is due to be appointed in the autumn – must be allowed to re-open talks on the frozen licence fee.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The Murdochs have been shown to have had exceptional access to Mr Hunt’s office in furthering their commercial interests.

“The new Director General must be allowed to rip up the deal and start again.

“Today, the cuts have been laid bare; more than 2,000 jobs will go.

“The cuts will bring about irretrievable damage to news coverage, music, drama and the arts. They will severely reduce the BBC’s ability to fulfill its public service obligations.

“We are also very concerned that the Asian Network is to have its staff cut by half and be forced to move to London. The Asian network has been vital in nurturing talent within the Asian community.

“Why should the BBC be making cuts to its vital news service to fund £150 million a year for broadband roll out and a further £25m investment in a new local TV service that nobody wants?

“Licence payers are now also expected to fund the World Service, Welsh service S4C and BBC Monitoring. When times are tough, the money should be used to protect creative content and quality news journalism.”

Applications closed earlier this month for the job of Mark Thompson’s replacement as director-general of the BBC.

It is widely thought that only internal BBC executives are among the candidates – and the NUJ has hit back at threats of political interference in the decision about his successor.

Said Michelle Stanistreet: ”The NUJ would also like to take issue with Boris Johnson, London mayor, who said about the new DG’s post, ‘We need a Tory, and no mucking around’.

“No, we need a BBC free from political interference and no mucking around.”

The Culture Secretary is due to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry at the end of the month.


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