Performers unite to fight BBC cuts

Actors, writers and musicians have launched a campaign calling on the BBC’s next director general to reverse the planned cuts at the Corporation.

Although a successor to Mark Thompson has not yet been appointed, the Federation of Entertainment Unions – which includes Equity, BECTU and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain – is calling on whoever is handed the post to try to renegotiate 2010′s licence fee settlement.

The current settlement has resulted in the BBC having to implement savings of 20%, which the unions claim will have a “huge adverse impact” on the UK’s creative industries.

As part of its campaign, which is called BBC Cuts – There is an Alternative and was first revealed by Equity at its annual representative conference earlier this year, the unions have jointly published a booklet outlining their own proposals for the future of the BBC.

In this, writers, musicians and actors describe the licence fee settlement as a “shocking deal” and claim it will be Thompson’s “legacy”. It adds: “This is why the Federation of Entertainment Unions will be asking his successor to rip it up and start again.”

2010′s licence fee settlement saw the fee frozen at £145.50 until 2017, and the BBC handed responsibility for funding the World Service and some of the costs of S4C in Wales.

However, the unions’ publication argues that there are a number of alternatives to the 2010 agreement that should be explored.

Referring to the new funding responsibilities, the unions claim the BBC should not be “used as a piggy bank which the government can dip into whenever the money runs low”.

“The additional funding responsibilities placed on the BBC by the settlement in 2010 should be reversed and the money ploughed back into core output,” the booklet adds.

It also claims that “BBC money should be spent properly”, adding that “big consultancy firms are leeching licence fee payers’ money from programming” and that “perks for senior managers should be abolished”.

In addition, the campaign argues that Sky should have to pay to carry the BBC’s services and that any money the BBC makes from charging viewers to watch content from its archive should be “used to protect the core services of the BBC”.

As part of the campaign, postcards have been printed which people can post to the new director general, and which state: “I am urging you to put pressure on the government to review the licence fee settlement. The BBC is a national asset. It is your job to defend it.”

Announcing the campaign in May, Equity general secretary Christine Payne urged “every member in this union to really get behind this campaign to urge the new director general to think again”.

Thompson has announced that he will leave the Corporation following this summer’s Olympics.

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