The words'Delivering Quality First'are terrifying. When an up-and-coming report uses such banal management speak in its title in order to distance itself from the subject matter it is dwelling on as far as possible, in this case for the BBC the big big word of CUTS, it is always leads it to everyone being fearful of what it will actually contain when it is released.
What service will be due to be closed down this time? What are they actually hiding? How large and significant will these cuts actually be?
Well now we know. Yesterday the BBC report was released to their staff and the public. You can read the full-scale of the cuts here, but already it has led to some people fearing that these £700 million worth of cuts by 2017 will inevitably slaughter the BBC and lead to the end of the public institution as we know it.
Well, it won't. In fact many of these cuts make sense, and could have been a lot lot worse.
Two clarifications I have to make though. The first one is that I am not a Daily Mail reader, or a Tory in any way shape or form. I do not believe that the BBC should be reduced to the size of cottage cheese. Secondly, even though this is my view I do sympathise with the 2000 talented professionals who will inevitably lose their job, especially at a time when the media industry as a whole is constantly slimming down so much you have to stab someone in the eye to get a job there in the first place. The BBC is certainly no longer a place that you can see yourself having a 'job for life', which is indeed sad to think about.
But, even if you are the most dire-hard BBC fan you have admit that some of the cuts, in some areas, did make a lot of sense. The policy of merging the news output of Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra throughout the day, for example, considering that it is the same news to the same audience at the same time, is logical. So to is the policy that there will be only one newsreader reading the script on the BBC News Channel throughout the day, instead of this bizarre two presenters ping-pong "have a laugh" banter match whilst reading each other's lines. As well as this will you honestly miss BBC 2 daytime and the BBC Politics Show? Nope. Agreed that I'm not at an age where I would be considered its core audience, but they are hardly areas of programming that can be considered the 'crown jewels' of the BBC or something that another broadcaster can't do themselves. And as for Radio 2 and Radio 5 Live losing some of their comedy output? Radio 2 and 5 Live have comedy?
Other cuts that have been made will also make a difference, but coming to think of it won't dramatically see the BBC being a shadow of its former self. BBC 3 and BBC 4 will be "refocused" so that they play a more supportive role to both BBC 1 and BBC 2, which when you think about it, they do already. It also means that for the first time BBC 3 doesn't need to shy away from questions about why it exists in the first place. Instead of the channel arguing that it serves young viewers who actually don't really watch the channel (and actually watch How I Met Your Mother on E4 instead), it can proudly boast about how it helped push Show A and show Binto the limelight on BBC 1 a little bit more.
All in all, regardless of your view of the 'Delivering Quality First' cuts, it could have been so much worse. SO much worse. These cuts were the result of some rushed negotiations with the Government last Autumn at a time when the Tories were starting to swing bats in multiple directions to many public services. As these talks were only allowed to take place over a period of three days what was battered out was pretty straightforward and pretty short-sighted (a seven-year freeze to the £145.50 licence free and the handing over of the BBC World Service from the Foreign Office). If the Tories had a longer and more calculated approach to this they could have pressurised the BBC to make even more severe cuts that would have had more severe implications. At least for now the dust has settled on the Government side. And by the time they meet again the economy may have improved enough so that negotiations of further cuts wouldn't be necessary. We hope.
It also means that the BBC has opportunities as well. The BBC World Service, for example, which until only a few years ago could be rarely heard domestically, is now fully under the BBC's wing and accountable to licence fee payers. This real "crown jewel" can really now be marketed more towards domestic radio listeners as something like an upmarket Radio 5 Live with a truly international agenda. And before you become snarky and suggest that wouldn't work, may I suggest that you spend an afternoon listening to it yourself? Its brill.
Cuts are bad and cuts are annoying, but with the Tories in power and an economic crisis malarky taking place this was always going to happen. And you have to admit that with such bizarre cost-cutting ideas BBC management has had in the past *cough BBC 6 Music cough*, these cuts have been managed pretty well and won't ruin much of its core programming or its core public service broadcasting obligations (such as children's television, Radio 4 and news).
Now who wants some cottage cheese?