Friday, 5 November 2010

BBC Licence Fee settlement: for radio, where will the axe fall?

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media & Sport
20 October 2010

“In the end the deal we got [for the BBC Licence Fee settlement] was tough but fair. Tough because the BBC, like everyone, is going to have to make demanding efficiency savings. But fair because it allows them to continue to make the great programmes that we all love and licence fee payers won’t have to pay any extra for the privilege. The assurances I have secured on magazines, local and online activities will also give some comfort to the BBC's commercial rivals that the licence fee will not be used to blast them out of the water.”

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Feedback, BBC Radio 4, 21 October 2010 [excerpt]
Roger Bolton, interviewer [RB]
Sir Michael Lyons, chair, BBC Trust [ML]

RB: Does that mean that you would regard any significant cuts in the domestic radio services as something you could not go along with?

ML: I think … that’s rather a sweeping assurance that you’re asking me to give …

RB: Well, it’s people who listen to Radio 4 and to Radio 3 and who value that greatly, and Radios 1 and 2, want to know, as a result of this settlement, will they see major economies made in their networks?

ML: Well, let me be very clear, as I said before. The Trust is clear on the importance to Licence Fee payers of the family of BBC services. The care that we take in reflecting on those radio services is, I think, reflected in the decision that we took on 6 Music – a very careful balancing of the public value that that service provides against its cost. What I can give you assurance on is that the Trust will continue to demonstrate that care across the range of BBC services.

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Tim Davie, Director, BBC Audio & Music
Interviewed by
Beehive City, 20 October 2010

“I don’t think anyone is proposing taking £300 million [for the BBC World Service] out of the Audio & Music budget. There wouldn’t be a lot left.”
“Obviously this is a decision taking place at a pan-BBC level rather than just looking at radio services. As the guy in charge of Radio I would say that our portfolio delivers value for money for the licence fee. I think Radio stacks up very well.”
“I don’t want to go into detail about discussions at this point in time. It remains speculation until we see what comes out in the Comprehensive Spending Review.”

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The Tony Livesey show, BBC Radio 5 Live, 28 October 2010 [excerpt]
Stephen Nolan, interviewer (presenter, BBC Radio Ulster) [SN]
Tim Davie, Director, BBC Audio & Music [TD]

SN: Interesting times for the BBC, Tim, aren’t they, because, with the Licence Fee freeze over the next six years, how’s that going to be felt by radio listeners? What are they going to miss, what are they going to lose?

TD: Well, I think it’s too early for me to say ‘oh, we’ve just had a settlement, this is what it affects’. I would say, as an overall principle, the last thing that people want – me or others want to do – is do things that affect the quality of listening. I think that one of the things the BBC has done pretty well over the last few years is: we have taken out quite a lot of costs. But the truth is our radio services, I think, are in fine shape. That’s for the listeners to decide but, actually, the numbers are good, I think the quality of programming is – frankly, it is quite easy to do cheap radio. The issue is that we also want to do the investigative journalism, we want to do the big stuff, and I think listeners care about that stuff. I would say that, of the Licence Fee, radio is only, at most, 20%. So, in terms of good value for money, as the head of radio, I would be arguing our case pretty hard.


SN: You say it’s quite easy to do cheap radio. Do we do cheap radio?

TD: I think, you know, overall, we do good value radio which is – I’m choosing my words carefully there – because, I think, cheap radio, what I meant by that was that it’s quite easy to have one person playing records. We don’t do that. You know. We get people like yourself, who have a point of view….

SN: [interrupts] Yes, we do! We don’t have one person playing records? Chris Moyles plays records. Radio 1 plays records and the commercial sector could do that any day of the week, couldn’t they?

TD: Well, I think Radio 1 is … that’s a big debate. I’m very clear that Radio 1 does something very different to commercial radio. An average commercial radio station would play probably about 200 records a week and Radio 1 … our records … we may get up to 900. We’ll be playing a lot more new music and, actually, we do a lot more speech. Nine million people are listening to news on Radio 1, with something like Newsbeat, and that’s important.

SN: BBC Radio 2 and the commercial sector will argue until the day they die –and I spent ten years working in the commercial sector – that Radio 2 should be given to the commercial sector. Give them a chance because that’s [no more than] very good presenters playing music.

TD: Well, I don’t think they would do what we do. Radio 2 is currently just about 50% speech so, if you listen … on a day in Radio 2, about half of it is speech.

SN: And define ‘speech.’ Are you including presenter links in that? Including monologues and all?

TD: I’m including everything in that. I’m also including Jeremy Vine doing Poetry Week last week. I’m in ….

SN: [interrupts] But it is a bit of a con to suggest that 50% is speech when that includes a presenter saying ‘good morning, it’s ten past ten’, because the commercial sector can do that.

TD: Well, of that, there’s a bit of speech which is those pure links. Point taken. But I think, if you listen to, as I say, Jeremy Vine, you also … It’s not just about music versus speech. You take the Folk Awards, you take Jamie Cullum doing jazz, I think Radio 2 can be pretty proud of what it does, and its playlist versus a commercial station… All I would say – and this is a very simple request, and a strange one by the head of BBC radio – but have a listen to commercial radio for a while and have a listen to us. I think that listeners know the difference.

SN: What is the difference? If someone was listening to commercial radio?

TD: I think we’re a lot less dictated to by a fixed playlist. We do have a playlist but it makes [up] a lot less of our output. I think we give our presenters, as you know, quite free reign and we allow them to do their stuff. And I think … there’s great commercial radio, by the way, and it would be remiss of me to say anything otherwise. But I would say the BBC – the great thing about having fixed income – is that we can do stuff. We can say go and do your stuff and, sometimes, as you know, that can get lively. But, overall, I believe in trusting presenters. The interesting thing as well, by the way, is [that] music services now on the web – you get all these automated recommendations – the one thing I think radio is doing well on is that we don’t kind of do that. We give a presenter the chance to do their stuff.

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House of Lords

debate on media ownership, 4 November 2010 [excerpt]

Lord Myners: I hope that when the BBC licence is next reviewed we start from a presumption that the BBC should not be doing certain things. The BBC should have to prove why it should continue to operate Radio 1 or Radio 2, for instance. It is extraordinarily difficult to explain to a foreign visitor why Radio 1, a popular music station, is a nationalised industry, and why it is necessary for it to be provided by a public service as opposed to a competitive one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Radio 1 and 2 will not be the same if left to the commercial sector. We'd end up with a "Heart" style network on Radio 1, and a "Gold" style network on Radio 2.

Even though I don't like Radio 1, BOTH radio stations are vitally important for the BBC. Both have wide and varies playlists. Both deliver a large amount of live music.

I very much doubt that the likes of David Jacobs would make it on to a commercial Radio 2!