The BBC must survive the cull and come out fighting

Digital refuseniks in Whitehaven won't be the only viewers to lose access to BBC programmes should the good denizens of White City press ahead with their expected strike action.

Yet again Aunty has got her knickers in a twist over proposed job cuts - 2,500 of them, although 700 new posts are to be created - triggered by a supposed £2bn shortfall in the Corporation's funding over the next six years. The gap is the difference between the BBC's request for a funding increase of inflation plus 1.8% and the inflation minus 1.5% it received.

By my maths, the cut to what it currently spends is really £150m a year, and with £50m of savings already identified, that reduces to £100m, or 3% of its annual funding. Hardly a savaging of the Beeb you might think.

There are new costs, to relocate staff to Salford and for digital switchover, but these are issues that all broadcasters have to deal with.

News and factual areas are to suffer the worst of the job losses, which had John Humphrys harrumphing to his bosses over the unfairness of it all.

Yet when, according to the BBC's own director-general, it takes 37 BBC reporters to cover the story of the cuts, compared to one each from Sky News and ITN, you get the sense that there is plenty of fat to cut from. Although a cynic might suggest that the squeeze on news and factual - the favoured genres of politicians - is a tantrum over government miserliness on BBC funding.

Aside from shedding staff, £100m is to be cut from commissioning budgets, with the emphasis on making less, but better programmes; all perfectly reasonable, but, with four schedules to fill, it opens to question the need for both BBC3 and BBC4.

BBC bashers also jumped on last week's decision to sell advertising onto bbc.com as evidence of a bloated, over-funded institution that wants it both ways.

Yet, the BBC should be applauded for trying to extract income from the 40 million foreigners who don't pay the licencee fee but avail themselves of the free service.

Now, Mark Thompson needs to push through cuts and reforms that leave the BBC leaner and fitter for purpose.

If he fails, this licence fee settlement, cruel as Aunty may think it is, is likely to be the last.

- Colin Grimshaw is the deputy editor of Media Week.

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